(The Center Square) – The Minnesota Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would send $841 million to local governments. The Senate also passed some police accountability reform measures during a deliberation that lasted into the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Senate File 47, if approved by the House and enacted into law, would distribute federal COVID-19 assistance to counties, cities, and towns based on a per-person basis.
The money is part of the federal CARES Act funding.
About $317 million have already gone to Hennepin and Ramsey counties since both have populations over 500,000.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, argued the funding distribution didn’t fairly compensate the hardest-hit urban counties. Hennepin and Ramsey counties have had 724 and 192 COVID-19 deaths, respectively.
Bill sponsor Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, said those two counties would receive $250 per capita, while the state's other 85 counties will receive $184 per capita.
That money can be spent on COVID-19 related costs, including preventing evictions, overtime costs, and economic support to small businesses closed by government mandate.
However, it can’t be used to replace lost tax revenue.
“This is a tremendous bill that will send important COVID assistance out to communities throughout Minnesota in a fair, equitable way,” Rosen said in a statement.
The Republican-controlled Senate also passed a handful of police reforms that Democrats, who have their own 21-bill plan, claim don’t enact the meaningful change demanded after the death of George Floyd.
Floyd died less than two hours after being pinned under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on May 25.
Senate File 104 would require a peace officer to intervene when witnessing another officer using unreasonable force and would ban chokeholds, except on someone acting violently.
One bill seeks to expand background checks to more people employed in law enforcement; another aims to require police report each use of force incident to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension; and a fourth would allocate about $5.5 million annually to police departments for crisis training, mental health, and ensuring safe interactions with people with autism.
Senate File 5 would give officers additional resources to handle stress.
Some Democrats say the measures don’t go far enough.
“Every day we wait to pass legislation that transforms our criminal justice system is another day that Black lives are at risk,” Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, said in a statement.
“We need real change, it’s not enough to pass performative legislation to say we did something. Minnesotans are demanding legislation that holds systems accountable and keeps every community safe," Hayden said.