Minnesota Report

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) opened his press conference with the following statement, which clearly sets the stage for where his side of the aisle starts “The first thing we will do is vote to remove the Governor’s emergency powers. We do not think the governor should continue the emergency powers. The emergency part of the pandemic is over.” His informed the assembled press then his chamber will immediately adjourn for a week, while waiting for the House to prepare their bills for Senate consideration.

Gazelka stated, “We will likely adjourn in the Senate, not Sine Die, just adjourn, because we have to wait for bills to come out of the House.”

The issue of police accountability was broached and he was quick to point out his caucus sought testimony from the different entities regarding the lawlessness that occurred in response to George Floyd’s murder. Highlighting what he felt his caucus is bringing to light with their hearings on the matter.

He confirmed the information we have, of holding active discussions with House Committee chairs. As he referenced the ongoing talks with the House and the Governor’s office on police accountability he said, “Banning of choke holds would be one thing where there seems to be an agreement, the duty to intervene if another police officer sees another police officer, they must intervene would be an agreement. We talked about adding more people to the Post Board, more citizens to the Post Board.”

“Most of the things we’re exploring. What we’re not exploring is defunding the police, we’re not exploring dismantling the police, we’re not doing felon voting, we’re not allowing the Attorney General to have more power than he presently has. The rest of it’s on the table and we’re talking through. And many of those things I think we can do. You never get 100% I’m hoping we get 75% or 80% of the two sides. That to me would be a win.”

In his discussion on the Bonding bill, he reaffirmed the number of 1.35 billion, as the General Obligation Bond number saying there would be a separate figure for Housing and Highway Trunk Bonds, but would not convey those figures at this time.

In regards for Disaster Assistance and the denial from the Federal Government for any assistance from the riots, he said his caucus would not support specific aid to Minneapolis or St Paul, but referred back to the tax provisions advanced by his caucus for federal conformity. He also conveyed the possibility of a combination of the Bonding Bill and the Tax Bill, but said it would need to occur first in the House. He also acknowledged a prior agreement on a $58 million spending bill from the previous Special Session.

When asked about the wearing of masks and the idea of a statewide mandate, he characterized it as a personal decision, but that people should protect themselves and others by wearing masks. Anecdotally, having spent a good portion of time in his legislative district we have witnessed a medium number of masks being donned mostly by employees in locations, like Home Depot, Fleet Farm and Cub Foods, but less than 50% of the people entering in these establishment when we did an informal count. So maybe Gazelka’s thoughts reflect his district over all.

He also wants to extend the ability to decide on the opening of schools to the local jurisdiction. When it was pointed out other states are having increased numbers of COVID-19 cases discussed the numbers he is focusing on the amount of Personal Protection Equipment, the number of open hospital beds a low amount of deaths from the outbreak.

Looks like the Senate is planning a wait and see approach dependent upon the actions in the House.