Eighteen days after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, the Minnesota state Legislature introduced 48 bills in a special session on law enforcement, reported The Marshall Project. On the same day, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a new bill restricting police chokeholds, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a series of police reforms into law, including repealing an obscure law, section 50-a, that shielded police disciplinary records from public scrutiny.
More lawmakers across the country are proposing changes to how police operate. In the three weeks after Floyd’s death and the ensuing nationwide protests against police brutality, 16 state legislatures have discussed the issues roiling the country. As of Tuesday, legislatures had introduced, amended or passed 159 bills and resolutions related to policing, including bills that were introduced in both chambers, according to a database compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures, a nonpartisan association of state lawmakers.
Of course, in politics, talking about doing something is one thing. Doing it is another. By June 16, nine of these bills have become law, and seven more are waiting for governors’ signatures. In all, three state legislatures—Colorado, Iowa and New York—have passed policing bills.
Looking at action in the statehouse has its limits, because police reform usually happens on the local level, as cities and towns decide how to fund and regulate their own police forces. The sheer number of new bills can also be misleading: some state legislatures will eventually bundle multiple bills related to the same topic and pass them as one omnibus bill.
Still, state legislatures can hold tremendous power on issues like setting pensions for police officers, and the wave of new state-level bills represents how swiftly the conversation around policing has shifted since the death of Floyd.
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