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Jun. 27—The Minnesota Legislature made big strides over the weekend toward averting a government shutdown on July 1.
Lawmakers announced a deal late Saturday on new police reforms. The issue was easily the biggest point of contention over the five-month long regular legislative session.
They also sent a $16.5 billion Health and Human Services budget and a $21 billion spending plan for public schools to Gov. Tim Walz. Nonetheless, only half of the 14 state budget bills have been completed and sent to the governor.
The slow progress comes more than a month after the close of the regular 2021 lawmaking session. The Legislature now regularly needs an overtime session to finish its work.
Lawmakers say they've agreed on the basics of a $52 billion budget. A deal on public safety reforms leaves just a handful of differences between Republicans, who control the Senate, and the Democratic-Farmer Labor Party, which leads the House.
The biggest remaining question is how to wind down Gov. Tim Walz's emergency powers, which have been in place since the coronavirus began in March 2020. Walz wants to end the state of emergency Aug. 1, but Republicans have demanded it cease immediately.
The GOP-led Senate included an end to the emergency powers in the state government funding bill they approved Friday. It's almost certain the DFL-controlled House will remove it.
That fight comes after Democrats acquiesced on many of the police reforms they sought after the police killings of George Floyd and Daunte Wright. DFLers had hoped to limit police stops for minor infractions, ban cops from joining white supremacists groups and require "sign and release" warrants for matters like missing a court date.
The public safety deal does include new regulations on no-knock warrants, new use of mental health crisis teams, and changes to civil forfeitures and how quickly body camera footage is released.
It also includes an Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives and Task Force on Missing and Murdered African American Women.
The other settled dispute is over the reinsurance program that shields health insurance companies from the exorbitant costs of their sickest patients. Minnesota will spend $188 million on a fifth year of the program, but some of that money is previous funding that's unspent.
Republicans insisted on continuing the effort because they say it keeps rates on the individual insurance market down. Democrats had opposed it as a give away to the insurance business.
Continuation of reinsurance was put inside the $16.5 billion Health and Human Services budget. It's the second-largest piece of the state's biennial spending plan. Public education is the biggest at $21 billion.
This year's education bill includes more than $1 billion in new money over the next two years. There's $457 million for the general funding formula, as well as new funds for recruiting teachers of color and for districts' special education costs.
Lawmakers have until midnight Wednesday to finish their work. If they don't, parts of the state government could be forced to shut down.