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Local/state briefs

Walz names new budget chief with state facing $4.7B deficit

ST. PAUL (AP) — Gov. Tim Walz named Jim Schowalter as his new commissioner of management and budget Wednesday to replace Myron Frans, who left his administration for a senior post at the University of Minnesota.

Schowalter is returning to an agency he led in Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration. He also served as budget director under Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Frans will become senior vice president of finance and operations at the university.

The governor’s office pointed out that Schowalter helped the Dayton administration resolve a $6.2 billion budget deficit that led to a state government shutdown. That experience will come in handy with Minnesota facing a projected $4.7 billion shortfall for its 2022-23 budget due to the coronavirus pandemic, which is expected to wipe out the reserve fund in the current budget.

Walz said in a statement that Schowalter will bring “extensive experience and a proven track record of effective governance” at a critical time for the state. And he credited Frans’ leadership with putting Minnesota in a stronger position to weather the fiscal consequences of the pandemic.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman told reporters she adores Frans and that they long had a strong working relationship, but she also praised Schowalter, calling him “another total powerhouse.”

Prosecutors want joint trial for 4 ex-cops in Floyd death

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Prosecutors on Wednesday asked a judge to try four fired Minneapolis police officers jointly in George Floyd’s death.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a memo arguing that evidence against the four is similar and that a single trial would spare witnesses and family members from the trauma of multiple trials.

Holding one trial also would allow the community and the nation to absorb the impact of the verdicts for the four officers at once, instead of piecemeal, Ellison argued.

“Forcing the community to endure four separate trials, with four separate verdicts at four different times, is likely to compound and prolong the trauma to the community,” wrote Ellison, whose office is leading the prosecution.

Floyd, a Black man, was handcuffed and lying face-down when Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes on May 25. Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe and called out for his mother before passing out. He was pronounced dead at a hospital that evening. Floyd’s death sparked protests around the world.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. The other three officers, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao, are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter. All four officers were fired and are scheduled for trial in March.

Attorneys for Chauvin and Kueng declined comment on the prosecution’s motion to hold a joint trial. Defense attorneys for Lane and Thao did not immediately reply to requests from The Associated Press for comment Wednesday.

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