Lawmakers return, try to hash out funding for flood relief

ST. PAUL -- Lawmakers return to the Capitol today after Gov. Tim Pawlenty called a special legislative session to approve flood relief for southeastern Minnesota.

ST. PAUL -- Lawmakers return to the Capitol today after Gov. Tim Pawlenty called a special legislative session to approve flood relief for southeastern Minnesota.

Pawlenty and leaders of the DFL-controlled Legislature on Monday agreed to a limited agenda for the one-day session, which is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

Lawmakers are expected to approve about $150 million in flood relief mostly targeted to homeowners, businesses and governments in seven counties, including Wabasha.

The flood relief proposal provides a mix of cash assistance and state-borrowed funds for pub-lic safety, transportation, housing and other needs. The aid package is loosely based on previ-ous flood assistance for northwestern Minnesota's Red River Valley in 1997 and the Roseau area in 2002.

The package "should cover the needs, at least between now and February, and hopefully be-yond," Pawlenty said.


The next regular legislative session begins Feb. 12.

Cleanup efforts are still under way in southeastern Minnesota, and residents are seeking more state help.

"It's very clear that we could not wait much longer," House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kel-liher, DFL-Minneapolis, said.

The proposed flood package could include other disaster assistance. Pawlenty said about $1 million is targeted for Cook County following the Ham Lake forest fire earlier this year, and there may be agriculture drought relief for other areas of the state.

Also, the western Minnesota town of Browns Valley, which suffered a March flood, could re-ceive a one-time payment of $200,000. Crookston, which also has suffered flooding, may see a $400,000 state payment.

Committees are scheduled to meet today to finalize the flood relief bill before the Legislature convenes. Pawlenty said he expects "crisp floor action" and a short session.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, said it is possible the special session may not end until Wednesday morning.

The Minnesota Constitution allows only the governor to call a special session, while only the Legislature can end one.


Last week, Pawlenty authorized nearly $32 million in emergency aid to southeastern Minne-sota, but said he needed the Legislature's action to provide more assistance.

Lawmakers convene

Since soon after the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed Aug. 1, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and lawmakers have discussed the possibility of a special session. Talk of an emergency special session intensified after the flooding Aug. 18-19.

There was discussion of including issues on the special session agenda -- such as a comprehensive transportation package and property tax relief -- but there was no agreement so flood aid became the only topic lawmakers are ex-pected to address.

Pawlenty said it does not appear likely state funds will be necessary to supplement federal funding of the 35W bridge cleanup and reconstruction. However, the flood bill could include $2 million for emergency response to the Minneapolis bridge collapse.

What To Read Next
Get Local