ST PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz is holding a news conference Tuesday to lay out his legislative priorities as lawmakers continue their special session.
Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan will discuss their Local Jobs and Projects Plan, one of their top priorities for this session, at 2 p.m.
Walz said that for this plan, he traveled the state to learn what infrastructure projects the state should invest in.
"We asked communities what they needed," he said. "These projects have been vetted for years."
The governor called for a "robust" bonding bill and emphasized that the Democrats' current proposal incorporated thousands of public comments. Walz called on the legislature "not to leave" until two things have passed: the bonding bill, and police reform.
"Many of these projects have been waiting for years," Flanagan said Tuesday. She recalled that community leaders had told her that they didn't know how long they could wait.
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic and unrest following George Floyd's death were not anticipated factors, Flanagan said, "those needs are very much still there."
Walz and Flanagan both argued that while these other crises have dominated public attention, the need to maintain important infrastructure is still there.
Al Bangoura, superintendent of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, spoke at the news conference on behalf of one project in the bill: Improvements to North Commons Park. Bangoura said the project would include a new recreation center including an arts facility, four basketball courts, a running track, and a rebuilt water park.
"It's an investment in a stronger and more equitable community," he said. "It's really going to be an amazing amenity for the North Side, for people who have been affected by years of inequity."
The Democratic governor and House Democrats are also backing three reform bills put forward by the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus. They are:
- Reclaiming Community Oversight
- Reforming Accountability
- Reimagining Public Safety.
Among Democrats' proposals are a $300 million economic recovery and small business investment package for areas hit by rioting, looting and fires in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody.
Derek Chauvin, the officer caught on camera with his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly 9 minutes, has been charged with second- and third-degree murder. The other three officers who responded have been charged with aiding and abetting.
GOP lawmakers have said that they'll block most Democratic proposals, only approving a limited set of police accountability measures. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said they intend to adjourn the special session Friday no matter what.
Gazelka said that Senate Republicans' top priority was to vote to end Gov. Walz's emergency powers that he's used to implement "Stay at Home" orders and other COVID-19 response measures. However, after the Senate approved that measure shortly after the start of the special session, the DFL-led House voted against it.
Walz said that the bonding bill is almost a "nonpartisan issue."
"I think the sense of optimism that will spring out across Minnesota will start to feed on itself," he said. "It's the psychology of the economy that matters a lot."
He said the legislature has a "golden opportunity" to provide some of that.
Walz said, however, that the state will still need to balance the budget. He said he believes they've saved $58 million or so over the past couple of months with hiring freezes and other cuts.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, issued the following statement regarding Gov. Walz's press conference on bonding:
"Our priority is reducing our budget deficit and ending the governor’s emergency powers. If the governor and the other legislative leaders are willing to have a discussion on those items, we remain open to a bonding bill.”