In setback for Walz, DFL House fails to get support for Chauvin trial safety proposal

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler said the Republican position “is not possible to meet halfway.” 

House Speaker Melissa Hortman presides over Monday's floor session. (MN House Info/YouTube)

A proposal from Gov. Tim Walz to help cover the cost of security for ex-officer Derek Chauvin’s upcoming trial was stalled Monday in the Minnesota House.

Democrats, who have a 70-64 advantage in the House, blamed Republicans for the gridlock.

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said the Republican position “is not possible to meet halfway.”

“They, instead of working on legislation to prevent harm, have used this opportunity to demonize, attack, and make worse the trauma of people who have suffered so much already,” Winkler said during Monday’s House floor session before moving to table the governor’s proposal.

Walz’s proposal, introduced by DFL lawmakers as House File 445, would create a $35 million state fund to reimburse local governments for providing mutual aid during “unplanned or extraordinary public safety events.” The proposal was crafted with Chauvin’s March 8 trial in mind.

Republicans believe the governor’s fund would function as a bailout for Minneapolis, since the state, rather than the city, would be responsible for reimbursing outside agencies that send mutual aid.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, also said Minneapolis still owes neighboring cities for their response to the George Floyd riots

So Senate Republicans introduced a counter proposal, which passed the Senate Monday afternoon. The Republican proposal would allow cities that aren’t reimbursed for providing mutual aid to apply to have it taken from the city that hasn’t paid.

“I am committed to funding what it takes at a state level to keep Minnesotans safe during the upcoming Floyd trials. We are not going to bail out Minneapolis, and we are not going to take House language that ties the hands of law enforcement to respond appropriately to violence and riots to keep both themselves and their communities safe,” said Gazelka.

Walz’s spokesman then told the media that “Paul Gazelka and Senate Republicans voted to defund police.”

“Gov. Walz doesn’t get to re-write history. It is laughable to suggest our bill defunds police. Senate Republicans passed a bill that will fund emergency police needs, with Republican and Independent caucus member support,” Gazelka spokeswoman Rachel Aplikowski said in response.

Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, eventually admitted during a press conference that there wasn’t enough support for the House bill among Democrats.

“The reason the bill was tabled today was because we had not a single Republican vote for the bill. The vast majority of the DFL caucus would’ve voted for this bill today but we did not have a single Republican vote,” she said at first.

But a reporter pointed out that Democrats control the House and could have passed the bill if it had enough support in their own caucus.

“That’s right, and we did not have 68 votes on the DFL side,” Hortman replied.

According to Hortman’s exchange with the reporter, there were as many as four Democrats who planned to vote against the Walz proposal because they didn’t want to give $35 million to law enforcement.

“The House DFL did not pass any bill today. This is another failed leadership test from Walz,” Aplikowski said. “He hasn’t earned enough support from his own party to pass his preferred bill.”