Third Special Session Lasts One Day, Yields Little

August 17, 2020

The Legislature did not accomplish much during the special session, but it did pass two bills, including one that makes minor changes to the new police reform law.

During the one-day special session on Aug. 12, the Legislature made a few minor changes to the Police Accountability Act that was passed in the second special session in July. Other than that, not much was accomplished during the special session.

What did happen?

As expected, the DFL-controlled House extended Gov. Tim Walz’s pandemic-related emergency powers, which have been in place since March. Like the special sessions in June and July, the Republican-controlled Senate passed a resolution to end that emergency. But a House motion to take up its own resolution to end the emergency was again unsuccessful. Both chambers must vote to end a peacetime emergency.

The Legislature also passed two bills, and in a surprise move, the Senate took up and rejected the confirmation of one of Gov. Walz’s cabinet members, Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Nancy Leppink. This means Commissioner Leppink must leave her position.

Changes to new police reform law

The session yielded two new chapters of law that are likely to be signed into law by Gov. Walz. Third Special Session Chapter 2 makes technical changes and modifies effective dates in the Police Accountability Act. It includes the following provisions:

  • Extends the deadline from Sept. 1, 2020, to Oct. 15, 2020, for the first meeting of the Ensuring Police Excellence and Improving Community Relations Advisory Council.
  • Changes the deadline for chief law enforcement officers to submit certain data to the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board from Jan. 15, 2021, to July 1, 2021.
  • Provides deadlines to meet new police training requirements included in the Police Accountability Act. The original law did not include training compliance deadlines.
  • Amends the deadline for providing preservice training for potential officers on how officers can safely interact with individuals who have autism. This training must be completed before the person can take the peace officer licensing examination by July 2022. Previously, it had to be done by July 2021.
  • Amends the appropriation of $145,000 to the POST Board by eliminating the requirement that the money be used to reimburse law enforcement agencies for intervention and mental illness crisis training expenses. It permits the board to use the money to staff and meet the new requirements for the board in relation to training in crisis intervention and mental illness crises; conflict management and mediation; and recognizing and valuing community diversity and cultural differences.

COVID-19 relief for disability service providers

The other new chapter of law is a package that will provide economic relief to disability service providers. Third Special Session Chapter 1, authored by Rep. Hunter Cantrel (DFL-Savage) and Sen. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), appropriates $20 million for grants to home- and community-based providers to help them pay employees and maintain safety standards during the pandemic.

The measure also provides $10 million for public health grants to help providers with the resources they need to reopen safely with proper social distancing. It passed by votes of 67-0 in the Senate and 129-1 in the House.

No bonding bill — yet

As anticipated, the House and Senate did not take up a bonding bill. They most likely did not have the votes in either body to meet the supermajority threshold need to pass a borrowing bill.

Additionally, passage of a bonding bill in August would have interfered with the Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) August 2020 bond sale. MMB annually sells bonds in August to meet cash flow needs for previously authorized projects.

During this time, they must clearly report in an official statement the state’s financial situation, including current obligations and prior authorized but not yet issued bonds. The state can’t be in the process of approving a new bonding bill at the same time.

September special session likely

If Gov. Walz wants to extend the current peacetime emergency related to the pandemic beyond the 30-day period beginning on Aug. 12, he will be required to call the Legislature back into special session on or before Sept. 11.

It is unclear whether or not the Legislature would take up any business besides the extension of the peacetime emergency if they meet in September. Many stakeholders, including the League, continue to press for passage of a robust bonding bill. Unfortunately, many Capitol insiders predict election politics make that unlikely.

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