ST. PAUL -- Prompted by civil unrest following the fatal arrest of George Floyd coupled with continued economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Tim Walz Wednesday announced a Special Session of the Minnesota Legislature.

Minnesota's Constitution allows the governor to call a special session of the Legislature when faced with “extraordinary” circumstances. Walz says the session will focus on issues of police reform and accountability, and Minnesota’s economic recovery amid the ongoing pandemic, including an extension of Minnesota's peacetime emergency status.

State lawmakers were unable to reach a deal on a bonding bill in the regular legislative session. Walz said the special session will give them an opportunity to pass meaningful reform quickly, instead of delaying discussion of issues until the next legislative session.

"This is our chance to take strong action to combat persistent structural inequities, pass substantive police reform, and build a stronger economy," he said. "I look forward to working with the legislature to seize this moment and build a brighter future for Minnesotans."

The death of George Floyd on Memorial Day in Minneapolis has prompted widespread protests and elicited a call from activists to restructure police departments across the country. A ruling majority of Minneapolis City Council members Sunday voiced their support for disassembling the city's police department.

Walz encouraged state lawmakers to "seize the moment" to pass statewide laws on police conduct.

"I would really encourage the legislature to not miss this opportunity," Walz said. "The state legislature in New York has already passed a statewide ban on choke holds. We saw the Minneapolis City Council do that, but it is not (banned) in the state, or the cities across the state. Why would we not take that up now?"

All 50 states and the federal government have implemented emergency powers to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Minnesota’s peacetime emergency status permits the activation of the National Guard to assist in relief efforts. It also provides economic relief and stability to those impacted by the pandemic, including $50 million in federal assistance.

The special session begins Friday at noon.

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