Low Expectations for Compromise Deal This Special Session

Minnesota Report

With Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) constitutional requirement to call a Special Session in order to reconstitute his executive powers, it only forces a date to reconvene the legislature, but doesn’t ensure any significant pressure to bring about a resolution.

Prior to the last Special Session, We had had three months of a Stay at Home order, the Twin Cities had burned in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder at the knee of now disgraced former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who as we

have learned is still licensed in Minnesota, and the unresolved issues from the regular session, like the Bonding Bill still remain.

The floor activity regarding legislative affairs had House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-31A, Crown) blocking passage of the Bonding Bill, while grandstanding and calling for legislative involvement in determination of decisions regarding our state’s response to COVID-19,

rather than unilateral authority of Governor Walz. Senate DFLers voting against the Senate’s version of a Bonding Bill, because the senate majority under the leadership of Sen Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) was unwilling to entertain any legislative

reform on public safety and criminal justice, which effectively ties these two issues together.

Most recently, under Gazelka’s direction the Senate is focused on a law and order response to the Minneapolis and St Paul protests and burnings, the slow response of police and the national guard, especially Minneapolis’ 3rd Precinct on Lake Street and the forced removal of the Christopher Columbus statue on the Capitol Grounds.

The two sides seem to be talking past one another and we are not hearing, or seeing any structural change that will foster an agreement. Walz and the DFL House are seeking systemic reforms in public safety and criminal justice, along with a Bonding Bill, the Republican controlled senate seeks accountability for the lawlessness and Daudt was to wrestle away powers from the chief executive. Nothing has changes since June 13th.

Conversations are taking place between chambers and with the Governor office, but the two sides seem intractable unless someone steps forward to detonate the logjam. We believe that person is Gazelka, but even if he does, it is doubtful Daudt will step inline and it will be left to seven roguish members of his caucus to break with him to facility the 81 votes necessary to pass a Bonding Bill. This part is the easiest since it means important projects in these legislator’s home districts during an election year.

Gazelka Negotiating Directly with Reps Mariani and Moran

Minnesota Report

There isn’t much progress to report, but we have learned

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) has been in discussion with

Rep Carlos Mariani (DFL-65B, St Paul) Chair of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Policy and Finance Committee and

Rep Rena Moran (DFL-65A, St Paul) Chair of the health and Human Services Policy Committee.

This is a non-traditional approach since mainly these type of negotiations are handled by the leadership, but in this case with the sensitivity of the issues associated with public safety and criminal justice, in the aftermath of George Floyd and Philando Castile it is wise of

House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-36B, Brooklyn Park) and

Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-46B, Golden Valley) to defer to a members of the POCI Caucus (People of Color and Indigenous). It also extracts Sen Warren Limmer (R-34, Maple Grove) from a key role which is important since he has not been willing to hear bills on the issues of concern from the House.

As we stated in our prior article, we see Gazelka as the lynch pin for any resolution. As a minister and a graduate of Oral Roberts University, he may see forward to a path that will help guide the state through these troubled times, but in order to do so, it seems like the first instinct is to focus on the Old Testament approach and seek retribution for what has occurred. As a Christen, we are awaiting Gazelka’s more graceful, New Testament approach to prevail and become the standard, rather than wrath.

Gazelka Pre-Special Session II Press Conference

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.

Interview with Carlos Mariani Regarding Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform After George Floyd (Part Two)

Minnesota Report

(Part Two)

C&B: Former Representative Charlie Weaver, head of the Business Partnership has expressed interest in trying to broker something. What do you anticipate there?

CM: Well, I think it will be a good faith effort on his part, my former colleague Charlie was a pretty conscientious legislator, a serious legislator who understood public policy. He works, representing some of the biggest corporations, you know, through business partnership in our state and corporate America actively have taken some pretty big strides in recent years to embrace racial equity racial justice to be better than they have in the past in terms of being inclusive in their practices with communities and your hiring practices etc I think there’s a real practical perspective, you know from that sector that racism is bad for the business it’s bad for our society. You know, it produces unrest that can get chaotic, which then means that places like Target have to board up their windows and close their shops that’s not what businesses want to do.

And so, I hope that Charlie’s, you know, desire to play go between can coax his former colleagues, Senate Republicans to match at the very least, match that level of commitment to combat racism and understand that we’re not just talking about a few bad apples. You know among police, we’re talking about an inadequate system that cannot combat racism and therefore allow for that dynamic, that dynamic of racism will play itself out the way, many people saw that played out with the killing of Philando with George, you know, so many black and brown people across the country.
So, I welcome his offer to help. Hopefully it’ll move things along.

C&B: Republican Senators have said it, even on the floor of the Senate, that they see this is a Minneapolis problem, is this a Minneapolis problem solely?

CM: It’s not solely a Minneapolis problem, but that’s symptomatic of a widespread issue, and that’s why you have all sorts of demonstrations, not only in Minneapolis but places as far away as the Bemidji, Duluth, St. Cloud, Rochester, because folks know that there are issues with policing generally. And of course, you know, good God, over 100 cities across the nation where they have also experienced these kinds of obscene tragedies. And so, you know, it’s a false narrative, it doesn’t, it doesn’t, honor, what Minnesotans know to be true.

We know that the majority of deadly force encounters in this state occur outside in the Twin Cities for instance. And people know that, and so I, you know, I think that kind of diversion, and lack of truth is not going to be well received the people of Minnesota. They want real solutions, they don’t want to just scapegoat, you know, one community.

C&B: You took a bold step, last year and directly reached out to the Sentencing Guidelines Commission to bring about systemic change on the issue of probation. Can you discuss that process, and then in turn the response of your counterpart Senator Limmer?

CM: Yeah, we know, in my committee, we heard a bill, that set probation terms no more than five years. All the social scientists including all their probation officers told us that there’s no reason to have a term longer than five years. If there are, they’re pretty rare and extreme. We have terms as much as 40 years.

There are tremendous collateral consequences that happen with that. 100,000 people on probation in the state of Minnesota. You know, so the collateral consequences could be everything from being able to vote, without being able to obtain credit, not being able to rent certain rental properties diminished opportunities, you know, get on with their lives even though their trying to do that.

And a pretty dispirit impact of low-income people out of poor whites and rural parts of Minnesota, as well as on people of color and Indian people in the state of Minnesota. And so, we had the bill, like I said Long carried it a Democrat in my committee. Senator Chamberlain the Republican Tax Chair, carried it in the Senate. Senator Limmer didn’t give it a hearing at all. It was never heard in that committee, we heard that we passed it. We pass it off the floor of the House and the Senate took no action on it. In the meantime, I was communicating directly publicly and transparently with, with the commission itself. We understood its charter and we knew that this charter gave it the authority to act without legislation.

Obviously, I prefer legislation but, in this case, we had long ago, empowered this commission with the ability to act on this issue.So, I coaxed them, I encouraged them to do it. You know, after new terms, or new people be appointed by Governor Tim Walz it was a critical mass of folks who heard that message, they waited to see if we would act legislatively but we didn’t they, they acted administratively and created the five year cap with exceptions but generally applied the five year cap going forward for all future convictions.The Senate, my counterpart was upset. He publicly testified and told them that they should not be taking these actions. only the legislature could do it, he is technically and legally incorrect on that. You know, he certainly had an opportunity, back legislatively, but simply did not act. You know, in the name of justice of getting things right for 100,000 people.

Well, it only applies prospectively so those 100,000 are stuck with their terms. My hope is, that at some point we’ll revisit their cases and get them capped at the five year, but the point is that the Sentencing Guidelines did the right thing to make Minnesota a better place for a whole lot of people to get on with their lives.

C&B: In 1999, when Jesse Ventura was governor and Rich Stanek a representative, the residency requirement for new officers in Minneapolis and St Paul was removed before it was fully implemented at the time Stanek was a Minneapolis cop and later became the Hennepin County Sheriff. Can you explain the impact of this legislative action and the vested interests that Stanek showed?

CM: Well, the impact is that well over 90% of the Minneapolis police have no connections with the communities that they police in Minneapolis. They don’t live there. They don’t interact in a regular way with people that they’re policing in Brooklyn Center it’s 100% of their police force that lives outside of the city. In Richfield, I forget the number but it’s a huge number. And so, Minneapolis and a number of other have asked us to overturn this in order to be able to establish a strong connection between the residents of their city and who gets to police and be a police officer in their cities.

And so, you know the impact I think has been, you know, greater distance being created between police officers and community members. You know that’s exacerbated by race, you know where you have huge percentages of white police officers, mostly good officers, you know, but who do not nevertheless reflect, you know the racial cultural communities that they are policing. And that’s a recipe for all sorts of, you know, misinterpretations, miscommunications, which sometimes you know, can lead to really bad outcomes so the cities really want this ability to do that. Our proposal doesn’t mandate it simply lifts the ban so that local control you can make these decisions on a city by city, township by township basis.

C&B: The name of the committee you chair has changed significantly over the course of time, especially when changing between DFL and Republicans control, is there a fundamental difference in philosophy between the two parties?

CM: Ya, there is, by the way I’m going to need to go. I’m supposed to call the Governor in two minutes. Ya, the philosophy is that everyone is at the table in this committee. It isn’t just white guys, it isn’t just law enforcement, there certainly are white guys and there certainly are law enforcement at the table, at the witness table, in helping write legislation, absolutely. And now there are way more people of color, indigenous people, people from different gender identities, lots of survivors of crime including the survivors of sexual assaults in our state. They’re all at our table. We have immigrants we have Muslims, we have blacks, so you come to a committee hearing now days and you’re going to see an incredibly powerful rich display of the fullness of Minnesota engaged in shaping laws. Where as in the past it was not the case. I’m really proud of that, that’s you know, us being the best legislature that the state of Minnesota deserves.

Interview with Carlos Mariani Regarding Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform After George Floyd (Part One)

Minnesota Report

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to interview Rep Carlos Mariani (DFL-65B, St Paul) Chair, Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division on proposed changes to the criminal justice system affecting police accountability, negotiations with the Senate and what to expect coming forward in a next Special Session. This is the first of a two-part transcribed Q&A.

At the time he was just getting ready to have an important conversation with Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) and today he i having a conversation with Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) facilitated by MN Business Partnership and former House or Representatives member Charlie Weaver (R).

Mariani provides great insight into the current state of affairs, discusses the obstructions and the inaction of key players on this issue, especially his Senate counterpart, Sen Warren Limmer (R-34, Maple Grove). We received a solid behind the curtain perspective on where things currently stand.

As we reflect on what was said, it is clear the House position is not overreaching but rather is a reasoned approach to create a system that reflects a respect for the lives of all Minnesotans and may prevent the senseless killing of people of color at the hands of law enforcement.

It is a worthy read.

 

C&B: I’m speaking with the chair of the Public Safety, Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division in the Minnesota House Representatives, Representative Carlos Mariani. As the chair of the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division Chair; in the aftermath of the George Floyd’s murder, what do you see ahead of you at this historical moment?

CM: Well I see a good opportunity for us to address what pretty clearly a lot of Minnesotans want us to address. You know, we had two plus weeks of protests, massive protests primarily here in the Twin Cities but not just in the Twin Cities, in the regional cities around the state, and folks were outraged of the killing of George. And they were outraged, and they were diverse in their backgrounds and their makeup. You have white, black, brown, indigenous men, women, suburban moms even all engaged, you know, in exercising the First Amendment right to express their outrage but also to call for a different way for us to do public safety. And so, I see an opportunity here in terms of grabbing that energy and reflecting it to the form of legislation that can put us on a better path of A) Holding our police accountable, very strongly so that we can avoid these kind of, you know, obscenities like the killing of George, the killing of Philando, and then also to put forth ideas about how we can expand public safety so that involves more than just using armed police in order to solve every problem that our community has many of which sometimes, you know leads to criminal acts.

C&B: What are the fundamental issues you’re addressing?

CM: One fundamental issue is accountability, the lack thereof. As we, you know, we’ve been working on this issue, by we, I mean our committee, for almost two years now, ever since I began chairmanship on it, in 2019.
And so, and even this year, we held, before the session started to hearing on race and the law. So, we’ve, we’ve understood from the very beginning of this bad intersect right now with policing and race and have been proposing all sorts of ideas, in order to create a more accountable, transparent, civilian, you know, heavy involvement in holding police, and law enforcement accountable.

And so, so one of the big issues for us to address is the relatively weak way in which accountability shows up right now, when it comes to policing. It actually sounds kind of hum drum, you know, but accountability is a powerful thing. You know, we have all sorts of professions in this state that are licensed through the state of Minnesota, just like all police officers are licensed through the state but in every other profession, you have really strong transparent and even proactive ways to constantly review the behaviors, the actions of any of these professionals. Whether they’re nurses or teachers or dentists or psychologists, the state can do that in a very muscular way in order to protect the public, but we don’t do that, when it comes to protecting the public from wrongdoing on the part of law enforcement professionals.

So, what are the big issues for us is how do we get that profession, at that same level of scrutiny and quality and accountability of the other professionals in the state? The other opportunity here is for greater civilian, participation, direction, guidance, direction in terms of the conduct of our law enforcement officers shaping how we can continue to evolve that professional still has a powerful, and positive interaction with the entire community, not just parts of it, but the entire community. So that’s where we’re looking for ways to invest, not divest, there’s divestment, there’s no defunding of police here, but what we’re looking for here is to expand state investments in other activities that can work, powerfully well, either with police and or independent of police in order to head off crime, in order to promote community.

So those are two big areas, you know, a third area is, what do we do to those instances where we do have a terrible wrong that’s been committed like we saw on May 25th, and so how do we make sure that there’s sound prosecution. You know, Hennepin County had never, you know, successfully prosecuted a police officer, until just a few years ago and that police officer turns out to be a Somali American but with, you know, dozens of dozens of complaints and many deaths had never done that before, and so there’s a lack of confidence on the part of the public, in regards to the will to prosecute wrongdoers who are police.

And so, we’re moving that primary responsibility we’re proposing that to be moved to the attorney general’s office so a state office that would be one step removed from the conflicts of prosecuting police officers of departments that they work closely with, which is the case with county attorneys.

So those are three big areas are many more. But I think we can certainly look at this and focus on, you know, negative punitive approaches. We’re approaching this differently; we’re approaching this in terms of how do we use this tragedy, to make our public safety system stronger and better, and accountability and community involvement and participation in public safety is very much at the center of all that for us.

C&B: What does Black Lives Matter mean to you?

CM: Black Lives Matter means to me, the recognition that historically, black lives have in fact, not mattered. And in our society, we use the word all, to attempt to describe everyone except that it really doesn’t describe everyone. It really encompasses those folks who are the norm, who are the majority, who the majority is comfortable with, so, by definition that tends to be folks who identify or identified as white people. And on the flip side of that, is a whole community of folks, including black people that are just simply not thought out as being part of the norm.

And so black lives matter, really affirms that each person each community is important in our society that their lives should be lifted up to the high level, to the sanctity of life, of dignity and respect, that other communities, take for granted. And so, you know, you have to do a little bit of a dive into history right, in the United States we created a slaveholders Republic that made it okay, from the very beginning to own other people so that we identify as black people, and then from that floor has a long history of indignities and dehumanizing of those people. That was reinforced, not only through social practice but by legal practices even attempts to mask in pseudo-science, in religion etcetera.

So, it’s critically important, given our history of de facto, not having the lives of black people matter, to very straightforwardly, very assertively, affirm, that black lives do matter.

C&B: So, our constitution of our state was created right after the Civil War and Reconstruction was happening and there are parts of our constitution that are affected by that, such as tying voting rights to legal convictions. Do you think that that needs to be changed in our Constitution?

CM: Well, I’m not a constitutional scholar, but my understanding is that our legislature can act within that construct to affirm voter rights for, for all sorts of classes of people including those that have been incarcerated and that are carrying felony convictions. And so, I think we’re in pretty strong legal standing that we don’t need to change the constitution to do that, we could do that statutorily.

And so, one of our proposals is in fact to do that. Now the tie of that true police accountability to an expanded notion of public safety, that needs communities where communities are at and involves them and public safety is really pretty simple, right, because we disenfranchise folks with felonies, from voting for long periods of time, after they’ve been released certainly while they’re incarcerated, or while they’re on probation. That means that the very people who have a direct experience with our policing of law enforcement entities and processes, end up having no say, on who is enforcing those laws on who is policing them.

And the point is that once you paid your debt to society, part of redeeming yourself and redeeming ourselves as a society, is to bring those folks back into community with us. And we can’t do that, if we’re saying you’re part of that community but, you can’t decide who your police chief is going to be, you can’t decide, you know who’s going to be policing your streets. And so, you know, this was a real common practice during the whole Jim Crow Era where you know localities came up with all sorts of reasons to criminalize activity in black communities. And then, by doing that disenfranchising them from voting, which then meant they couldn’t elect the city council people and the mayor’s who appointed and hired the police department. That was enforcing these laws and criminalizing, you know, black communities and targeting that specifically.

So, we really want to break the cycle, of excessive police presence and activities with certain communities but those communities, absolutely, need to be part of our electoral process, especially after they’ve already served their time, have already made their obligations you know regarding probation, so that they can help us build a good community, and part of building a good community, is being able to vote in the kind of folks that can determine what that local public safety system should look like.

C&B: Are you saying Jim Crow laws exist in Minnesota?

CM: In a way, yeah, ironically, in a way, by this artificial disenfranchisement of people who have paid their dues and have done their time, that, its impact is very similar to what Jim Crow was designed to do.

C&B: What’s the significance of the POCI Caucus, the people of color caucus in the DFL House Caucus.

CM: Yeah, the people color and indigenous caucus of legislators there is nineteen of us, fourteen in the House. five in the Senate. And that’s the new level, or new percentage, a new presence of that kind of diversity in our legislature, ever. Its impact has been that, with those kind of numbers, and those numbers are going to grow by the way, with those kind of numbers were able to engage in the kind of conversations that we’ve been avoiding for all too long. So, I guess I will get a (inaudible) out of that, as you know because of my seniority I am chairing a major committee, Public Safety Criminal Justice Reform, which then allows me to bring in my experiences as lucky as you know, as a brown person into the stewardship of that committee. Which has informed and allowed me to engage and structure that committee in such a way where we’re addressing issues of race and the law. So, as I said earlier, we began this last regular session. Just before session by holding an evening long discussion of race, and the law over at Hamline University. And so that’s really driven by my own experiences by my own, you know, the things that motivate and move me as well as what motivates and moves my district which is a quote unquote majority minority district, where we have lots of diversity, with lots of different communities of color as well as white communities who are experiencing in justices in the criminal justice and policing systems.

So, with more POCI Caucus members, you’re going to have more of these conversations, more of these explorations or these experiences being brought into shaping our laws, and it’s going to make it harder and harder for this legislature to ignore those realities that exist, specifically within those communities of color.

And so, the POCI Caucus was highly instrumental in putting together the package of proposals, or the package of nineteen proposals that constituted the Minnesota House’s response to the killing of George Floyd.

C&B: That leads right into the question I’m going to ask, after George Floyd, how does the legislation you’re advancing today differ from your bill the first year of this biennium?

CM: I think its informed by it. You know there’s a lot of fine tuning, of it. I think there’s a sense of urgency that wasn’t as widespread, as before, you know, with many more members, you know, willing beyond just POCI members, are very willing to immediately address these issues and quite frankly even, you know, I’m a Democrat, but quite frankly, even a few Republicans in the House, there were, I don’t know, four or five republicans that at one point or another voted for different provisions of the big act that we put together. And so, I keep the difference. George Floyd, really just lit a strong passion in people’s hearts, and provided you know energy by virtue of the outrage and will be with us with our own eyes you know the slow torturous killing of another human being. And it just really provided an incredible, you know wind in our sails to really move forward, really pretty rapidly pretty complex rather complex pretty comprehensive package of ideas. Whereas, any other, you know, issue or time, you know something that’s meaningful would probably take many, many years, you know, to be able to pull together.

C&B: If your legislation had passed last year. What effect would it have had had on law enforcement would Derek Chauvin been a police officer under your new system.

CM: That’s a great question. At the core of our bill last year, which is one of the features of this year’s bill, was a very robust vetting system that collected in centralized public data, we’re talking about data that’s already been pulled it all together, precisely at the state licensing place, the POST Board the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board set up in process by which that data will be analyzed, that the analyzing would have been done with not only, law enforcement, right now it’s super heavily law enforcement that does any look, if they do any look at all. It would have been done with a strong cadre of civilians, next, regular citizens, sitting right next to law enforcement, analyzing data. We arguably could have picked up the intent is to pick up the kind of patterns of practice that officers Chauvin apparently had. You know, we’re talking about an individual that had dozens of complaints, some of a severe nature, some that actually involved the deaths, the use of deadly force, with other individuals prior to George. And so, that would have certainly under our proposal would send up a red flag for us to then take that was strong intention step, either of doing a massive intervention with that individual, or you know, with some pretty severe discipline even leading to dismissal. And of course, if he had been dismissed, delicensed, he would not have been, where he was on May 25 and his knee on another human being’s neck.

So yeah, the whole intention of that kind of use of transparency, data analysis, who’s sitting at the table is all about creating a proactive way to identify problems before they become big problems in terms of the behaviors of our professionals, it’s the way every other profession works, to scrutinize and review for all the right reasons, because it’s all about public safety and protecting the public. It doesn’t happen anywhere with the strength that it shouldn’t be happening when it comes to policing and so that’s the system that were proposed last year, it was turned down out of hat, by the Senate, who quite frankly, never held hearings, and the proposal in their body just wouldn’t even talk about the issue. So, you know, Minnesotans deserve a heck of a lot better than that kind of behavior that we saw last year from the Senate.

C&B: Again, you’re leading into my question line. What has the response been from your senate counterpart, Senator Warren, Chair of the Judiciary Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee?

CM: The response to the part of the Senate Majority, particularly my counterpart Senator Limmer has been, to put it kindly, totally inadequate. We’ve had bills that have been authored in the broader criminal justice arena that have been authored by Republicans by Republican senators that that committee simply would not give a hearing to.

You know, it’s one thing to vote something down to have an objection to why. Another reason why you might fall into our technical issue, or a funding issue, or you know needs a little bit more time to gel or whatever. But to simply not talk, not explore, not hear or engage the public in a public hearing on something this critically important as police accountability It’s just unconscionable. And so, it’s fitting incredibly neglectful. I would say irresponsible. And obviously I don’t have a crystal ball so I don’t know whether we have done that in the Senate or the House that we would have avoided, you know what happened with George, but the legislation again was designed specifically for that and so you know that lack of care, that lack of engagement, that lack of, you know, hard work on the part of the Senate is unbecoming and worse than that it’s just irresponsible.

C&B: Is Senator Limmer ignoring the issue?

CM: I believe he is; I believe your action; your action speaks for itself or in this case your inaction speaks for itself.

C&B: Will you provide your viewpoint on what negotiations, that inside information with the Senator (Limmer) actually are like?

CM: With this individual Senator or with the Senate in general?

C&B: Let’s talk both pieces with him and with the Senate.

CM: Well, our interaction, well they are actually both, synonymous at this point, I can tell you that in our attempt to arrive at agreement in the special session after we’ve worked incredibly hard in the House.
I mean, my gosh, we had a, you know, a seven hour Saturday hearing engaging with, oh my gosh, three dozen different public individuals, including families of loved ones, been killed by the police, Philando Castile’s mother versus George’s family anticipated, as well as academicians, advocates, and even folks in law enforcement, where we heard from police chiefs, who wanted to see a big change in the arbitration system. We had seven hours of that we had five hours mark-up, a couple days later, we had two or three other presentations in two or three other committees. We had a presentation in the Ways and Means Committee. And then we had a seven-hour debate on the floor of the House It took us to a one o’clock in the morning on that Saturday morning of the week before Republicans walked out on the session.

On the Senate side, we had a pretty minimal amount of time spent. I would say, I’m not sure about the hours. It was only several hours in a one-shot hearing, where folks were rushed along in terms of offering their testimony, and then putting forward a few bills, quite frankly, so we thought, you know, could match-up fairly well with our bills. And then when we sat to talk through and negotiate the Senate said, well, you know we can’t act, because we haven’t read your bill.
And mind you, you know, a good chunk of this bill had been written the year before, had been presented to them the year before we had, we actually held a hearing forced them to sit through a hearing in the conference committee on the provisions around police accountability. But nonetheless, they told us, the Senate told the House we haven’t read your bill.

And so, our response was, we think you should read the bill. Why don’t you read the bill we’ll get back together then you could ask those questions and let’s see if we can get to an agreement. You know, five hours later, they wanted to talk again. And at that point they put a number of ideas on the table as a take it or leave it offer and we needed to move quickly because they simultaneously arrange for a press conference to talk about their offer.

We counteroffered within a couple of hours. They looked at it and said, well too bad we’ve run out of time, which was a unilateral decision on their part. We were prepared to stay there as long as it took because this is important. And they got up and walked out and to this day has that responded to the counteroffer that we put on the table which was a combination of a number of their provisions, along with some pretty big ideas that we had in our bill as well, so that all that I was saying that you know our interaction and negotiating style, or process with the Senate, quite frankly, has been in one of a lack of respect on the part of the Senate with the House’s proposals. A lack of urgency, a lack of depth on their part in terms of responding to these issues and a pretty dismissive, you know, attitude by virtue of just simply choosing to walk away. And, by the way, they walked away on Juneteenth, which, you know, spoke volumes to a lot of folks in the African American community. This is, you know, a major liberation for African Americans and it was on that day that the Senate, you know, didn’t respond and then walked away from any further negotiations.

End of Part One

Walz Announces COVID-19 Distribution Plan

Minnesota Report

Yesterday, Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) put forward his administrations plan for distribution of the latest COVID-19 funds for cities and counties across the state. Because there wasn’t  any agreement between the Senate Republicans and House DFLers the Governor was left to decide what needed to happen.

This will help alleviate some of the costs associated with the preparation and impact felt from the response to the Coronavirus. Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) is quick to point out the need to reopen our businesses and call attention to the small number of cases here in MN where the lockdown was fairly significant compared to neighboring states where either no restrictions were mandated, Iowa or South Dakota, or where the state open up quicker, Wisconsin. Additionally, he calls attention to the small number of deaths outside of congregated living facilities, like nursing homes.

This is in light of the fact a number of states like Florida, Texas and Arizona, which opened far more rapidly are experiencing double digit spikes in the number of cases. Prudence, seems to be the best measure and Patience the guiding force.

Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan today announced a plan to distribute $853 million in relief to communities across the state impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. $841 million will be distributed to Minnesota counties, cities, and towns to support local government coronavirus relief efforts. $12 million will be allocated toward food shelves and food banks to help combat hunger across Minnesota. The funding was authorized under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“As we work to support the health and safety of all Minnesotans during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also taking steps to build a stronger and more equitable economy,” said Governor Walz. “This funding will bring much-needed relief to communities across the state as we continue to battle this pandemic together.”

Approximately 300,000 Minnesotans have visited food shelves each month since the pandemic began, representing approximately a 30 percent increase over typical visits. Food banks are distributing approximately 2.4 million pounds of food per week, representing a 20-40 percent increase since 2019. To help meet this unprecedented demand, the Governor and Lt. Governor are allocating $12 million in emergency support for food shelves, food banks, and other emergency food efforts across the state.

 “Access to nutritious food is a cornerstone of a safe and healthy life, and for too many Minnesotans, that need hasn’t gone away during this pandemic—it has increased,” said Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. “Using CARES Act funding to alleviate this need is one way we can directly improve the lives of Minnesotans most impacted by COVID-19. While the Legislature was not able to come to a final agreement to distribute this funding, their work was critical in determining the greatest needs across our state.”

 The $841 million for local governments across the state can be used to support local government services as well as grants to businesses, hospitals, and individuals who have been impacted by COVID-19.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue will distribute the funding to local governments. Local governments will receive a direct payment based on the per capita formula developed by the state legislature during special session.

Counties with population under 500,000:                  $121.28 x county population

Cities with population over 200:                                $75.34 x city population

Organized towns with population over 5,000:           $75.34 x organized town population

Towns with population over 200 and under 4,999:   $25.00 x town population

Cities or towns with a population of less than 200 will have their distribution sent to their county:

Cities with population under 200:                              $75.34 x city population

Organized towns with population under 200:           $25.00 x town population

Prior to distributing the aid, local governments must certify their intent to follow federal guidelines for the use of funds received. The CARES Act requires that payments may only be used to cover costs that are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency, were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved for the state or local government, and were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020.

“Local governments urgently need this funding in order to effectively respond to this unprecedented public health emergency,” said Department of Revenue Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly. “The Department of Revenue has a long track record of distributing aid to local governments. The infrastructure already in place will ensure this aid is distributed quickly and accurately.”

The Governor is submitting this proposal today to the Legislative Advisory Commission for their review and is requesting their swift approval so the funds can be distributed. The Department of Revenue will distribute funds on a rolling basis beginning the week of June 29, 2020. Any remaining unspent funding must be returned to the state by December 10, 2020, and the state must recoup money if local governments are found to have spent the aid improperly.

Additional information is available on the Minnesota Department of Revenue website.

Effects of the Legislative Cooling Off Period

Minnesota Report

When Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09 Nisswa) adjourned Sine Die on Friday, we said he did so because the DFL overreached and asked for too much in their proposals for police accountability, which leaves the matter unresolved. The pressures being applied to the Republican leader not ones felt within the confines of his caucus in fact just the opposite.

Yesterday, his office announced a senate oversight committee to hear testimony for determination and accountability for a recent marked increase in crime, including rioting, destruction of private business, and destruction city and state properties. This squares with Gazelka’s concern shared at the beginning of the session regarding increased acts of violence on the light rail system and increased fears expressed by his constituents when coming to the cities to attend sporting events.

If we will see a law and order agenda from the Senate GOP during the summer in Special Sessions, it is not hard to see that will be their agenda for the campaign as well.

Ellison Takes on Big Oil

National and Minnesota Report

On Wednesday, Attorney General Keith Ellison (DFL-MN) has taken a bold move in his pursuit to hold oil companies and the Petroleum Institute accountable for the impact of climate change. He joins other states and localities like California, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Colorado along with the New York City, Baltimore, San Francisco, and Oakland to name a few, in a similar quest. Of course, the direct comparison was made to the Tobacco settlement in 1998.

In his press release, the direction being taken is quite clear, but if the full environmental impact of big oil is to be held to account, it’s not just climate change as the sole effect, we see one clear piece lacking and that is the use of petroleum based chemicals used in agricultural products as ground water pollutants. In the Land O’ 10,000 Lakes groundwater contamination, something the Attorney General’s Office has pursued regarding 3M, is another worthy pursuit.

Here is full text of the release.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit this morning in Ramsey County  on behalf of the State and its residents to stop deceptive practices related to climate change and to hold ExxonMobil Corp., the American Petroleum Institute, and three Koch Industries entities accountable for perpetuating fraud against Minnesotans. 

The lawsuit includes claims for fraud, failure to warn, and multiple separate violations of Minnesota Statutes that prohibit consumer frauddeceptive trade practices, and false statements in advertising. In addition to an injunction barring further violation of these laws, the complaint seeks restitution for the harms Minnesotans have suffered, and asks the Court to require defendants to fund a corrective public education campaign on the issue of climate change.

Minnesota joins a growing number of governments that are seeking to hold companies responsible for harms associated with climate change. While defendants and claims vary among jurisdictions, at least 15 other plaintiffs have brought similar lawsuits to date. Plaintiffs include the states of Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, along with cities and counties throughout the country.

“When corporations and trade associations break the law and hurt Minnesotans, it’s my job and my duty to hold them accountable. The fraud, deceptive advertising, and other violations of Minnesota state law and common law that the lawsuit shows they perpetrated have harmed Minnesotans’ health and our state’s environment, infrastructure, and economy,” said Attorney General Keith Ellison.

“Impacts from climate change hurt our low-income residents and communities of color first and worst. The impacts on farmers in our agricultural state are widespread as well. Holding these companies accountable for the climate deception they’ve spread and continue to spread is essential to helping families to afford their lives and live with dignity and respect. It’s only fair that, as our complaint states, ‘the parties who have profited from avoiding the consequences and costs of dealing with global warming and its physical, environmental, social, and economic consequences, bear the costs of those impacts, rather than Minnesota taxpayers, residents, or broader segments of the public.’”

The complaint asks the court to require these companies to use wrongfully-obtained profits to help Minnesota pay for the devastating consequences of climate change. Attorney General Ellison is asking for these companies to disgorge profits and to “fund a corrective public education campaign in Minnesota relating to the issue of climate change, administered and controlled by an independent third party,” and that defendants “disclose, disseminate, and publish all research previously conducted directly or indirectly . . . that relates to the issue of climate change.”

The complaint describes how these companies strategized to deceive the public about climate-change science in order to safeguard their business interests. It was uncovered only starting in 2015 that internal experts in the field of climate change at these companies were issuing warnings to company leaders about what was coming. But rather than warn the public, as was the companies’ duty, the complaint details a multi-pronged campaign of deception that the companies and API conducted over the past 30 years.

During this same period, ExxonMobil and Koch earned hundreds of billions of dollars in profits while Minnesota shouldered the costs and consequences of unmitigated climate change.

Two images released in the complaint today illustrate the campaign of deception. One is a document from Exxon Engineering, labeled “Proprietary Information,” dated October 19, 1979. It clearly asserts the reality of climate change and acknowledges that the cause is “due to fossil fuel consumption.” The other image is of print advertisements from the Information Council for the Environment, an industry front group dedicated to denying the science of climate change. The ads compare predictions of climate change to “Chicken Little” and assert that “they may not be true” — despite the defendants’ knowledge that the predictions were true.

Minnesota has a history of holding companies accountable for misleading the public. Under former Minnesota Attorney General Skip Humphrey, Minnesota prosecuted Big Tobacco for violating many of these same statutes. Doug Blanke, who worked on the tobacco litigation and headed the Consumer Protection Division while he was at the Attorney General’s office, and now directs the Public Health Law Center at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, thinks that Attorney General Ellison has a strong case. “Misleading the public about science is not a new concept,” he explains. “Unfortunately, some companies seem to care more about their bottom lines than the public’s health. But it’s a violation of Minnesota law to mislead consumers about the products you sell, and the Attorney General has laid out a powerful case that these companies did exactly that.”

Sam Grant, executive director of MN350, added, “As we come together to hold American Petroleum Institute, Exxon, and Koch Industries accountable in this consumer-protection lawsuit, it is important to be mindful that the harm caused by their bad corporate behavior is not evenly experienced. Here in Minnesota, it is our populations of color — particularly our urban African American population and our American Indian population whether urban or rural — that face the most grave health disparities, disparities contributed to by corporations that have knowingly deceived the public, distorted the science, and made tremendous profits while causing irreparable socio-environmental harm.”

“Our future generations count on our actions today,” explains Winona LaDuke, director of Honor the Earth. “As fossil-fuel companies like Exxon twist laws and deal in carbon across the world, people and governments are stopping them. I’m proud that Minnesota is stepping up.”

Juwaria Jama, the state lead for Minnesota Youth Climate Strike, explains how young people feel about this action: “As generation z, we have known about climate change ever since we were born. As children, we were told that we only had a few years to act until our future could be stolen from us. Now as teenagers, that reality is clearer. We are spending our time fighting a last-minute battle to preserve a livable world for ourselves and future generations because corporations like Exxon knew the impacts of climate change, but continued to deceive the public for decades. Exxon chose profit over people. It’s time they’re held accountable.”

Impacts and costs of climate change on Minnesota

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, from 1951 to 2012, Minnesota’s climate warmed faster than both national and global rates of increase, with average annual temperature increasing by 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metro area. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, since 1960, the rate of climate warming in Minnesota has increased from 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit per decade from the 1890s to the 1950s to 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit per decade beginning with the 1960s. These and other studies lay out many of the impacts of climate change on Minnesotans’ health and Minnesota’s environment and economy.

Pages 57–70 of the lawsuit also detail some of the many impacts and costs that Minnesota has incurred and will incur as a result of climate change that has gone unchecked and unregulated because of the defendants’ 30-year campaign of deception.

copy of the complaint is available on Attorney General Ellison’s website. Video of the press conference at which Attorney General Ellison and other speakers announced the lawsuit will be available on Attorney General Ellison’s YouTube channel

The Politics of Law Enforcement are Based on Where You Live

Minnesota Report

The debate on the State Senate floor yesterday, on a series of bills, SF 1 Sen Warren Limmer  (R-34, Maple Grove) law enforcement training funding, SF 3 Sen Bill Ingebrigsten (R-08, Alexandria) Use of force reporting to the BCA, SF 104 (Limmer) Use of force policies (bans chokeholds/neck restraints, includes duty to intervene/report and the sanctity of life standard), SF 49 (Ingebrigtsen) Background checks for other police staff, and SF 5 (Ingebrigtsen) Police counseling support, constitute a large part of the Republican positions on changes in law enforcement in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder and protests.

The debate over a proposed amendment by Sen Foung Hawj (DFL-67, St Paul), the sole Hmong senator and refugee from Vietnam War, to curb police killings and brutality by shifting from Warrior training methods to Guardian training methods was met with complete rejection by the Republican controlled majority and three DFLers Senators Kent Eken (DFL-04, Twin Valley), Dan Sparks (DFL-27, Austin) and David Tomassoni (DFL-06, Chisholm) joined in this position.

During the debate, Ingebrigsten, a former County Sheriff, had the audacity to say, “Maybe this is just a Minneapolis problem,” as he said problems of this nature do not occur regularly in his community, which are clearly more homogenous. (White)

The key component in this discussion is happening in the House and is best rendered by Rep Rena Moran (DFL-65A, St Paul) requiring a change in policy for the use of deadly force from an “apparent” threat of death or harm to an “imminent” threat found in HF 01.

We expect the two sides will not find much to agree on and since the Republicans have made it clear they intend to adjourn Sine Die on Friday, Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) will need to call them back into Special Session later.

It looks like the election politics will be evident in all matters throughout the summer.

Political Party and Caucus Campaign Finance Reports for Q1 2020

Minnesota Report

The Q1 filings for the different parties and caucuses are in and as it is our tradition we compile them for your perusal.

DFL Party (MN DFL Central Committee)

Total Receipts

2,976,063.50

Total Expenditures and Disbursements

1,979,557.88
Ending Cash Balance

1,102,375.05

Total debt of committee

693.25

Republican Party of Minn

Total Receipts

402,387.24

Total Expenditures and Disbursements

323,104.76
Ending Cash Balance

183,133.92

Total debt of committee

4,302.75

Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party

Total Receipts

1175.34

Total Expenditures and Disbursements

563.06
Ending Cash Balance

2329.36

Total debt of committee

0.00

Legal Marijuana Now Party

Total Receipts

875.85

Total Expenditures and Disbursements

 533.99

Ending Cash Balance

1,593.26

Total debt of committee

0.00

DFL House Caucus

Total Receipts

569,554.67

Total Expenditures and Disbursements

600,863.62

Ending Cash Balance

1,126,711.45

Total debt of committee

0.00

DFL Senate Caucus

Total Receipts

900,667.35

Total Expenditures and Disbursements

869,541.84
Ending Cash Balance

717,066.54

Total debt of committee

0.00

 

Republican House Caucus (HRCC)

Total Receipts

391,334.73

Total Expenditures and Disbursements

286,493.96
Ending Cash Balance

422,711.15

Total debt of committee

0.00

 

Republican Senate Caucus (Senate Victory Fund)

Total Receipts

517,477.86

Total Expenditures and Disbursements

386,539.98

Ending Cash Balance

2,229,068.71

Total debt of committee

0.00

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Gas Prices Falling Slowly, with Reduced Travel

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