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Damage from civil unrest wouldn't be covered by state disaster aid under Minnesota Senate plan

GOP senators who supported the plan said Minnesota taxpayers shouldn't have to cover the cost of cleaning up or recovering from looting and rioting in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

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The Minneapolis Third Police Precinct is set on fire during a third night of protests following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, on Thursday, May 28, 2020. (Carlos Gonzalez/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)
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ST. PAUL — A Minnesota Senate committee on Monday, Jan. 25, advanced a proposal that would prevent damages from civil unrest from being eligible for state disaster funding.

The plan would apply retroactively if passed into law, and it could allow for the clawback of state funds paid out to help repair damage from looting and riots that occurred in Minneapolis following the police killing of George Floyd.

Damage from the riots was estimated to exceed $500 million and the Trump administration denied a request for federal funding to help offset the cost of cleanup and recovery. Gov. Tim Walz authorized the transfer of more than $12 million over the summer to help Hennepin County address fire damage.

Republican lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee said the state's disaster laws were meant to deal with natural disasters and taxpayers in Greater Minnesota shouldn't be asked to foot the bill for the damage in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

READ MORE from Dana Ferguson reporting from the Minnesota Legislature

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"I want to make sure the taxpayers of Minnesota are not paying for something that by the actions of our executive branch and the mayor of Minneapolis perhaps were exacerbated. And I've heard over and over again from Greater Minnesota, from my constituents, 'Please do not pay for this out of our taxpayer dollars,'" the bill's author Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, said. "I think there's other ways of dealing with this."

Democrats on the panel, meanwhile, pointed to the list of those charged in connection with the looting and arson fires in the area and said many came from outside the Twin Cities to wreak havoc. And they, along with emergency managers from around the state, said that writing civil unrest out of the covered damages could have unintended adverse effects.

"If we want to visit the blame on the people who caused the damage rather than on the victims of the damage, then we should be visiting this blame statewide," Sen. Ron Latz, D-St. Louis Park, said. "I think this just isn't necessary."

The bill moves now to the full Senate chamber for consideration. A House version was filed earlier this month. Its path forward in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor led House of Representatives remains unclear.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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