Special session talk begins

This week’s flooding in Duluth has some state officials talking about the need for a special legislative session to pass a package of disaster relief.

Gov. Mark Dayton was in Duluth today to get a look at the damage. Afterwards, Dayton said a special legislative session is possible.

“I don’t rule that out. I have to make an assessment,” Dayton said. “If that’s needed to bring the kind of financial assistance that’s necessary and to expedite that process, then I’m certainly willing to consider that.”

But before calling a special session, Dayton stressed that he would need to reach a prior agreement with Republican legislative leaders on the scope of the agenda.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, and Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, haven’t specifically said whether they support a special session. But they issued a joint statement that seemed to show a willingness.

“Minnesota has a proud tradition of coming together to help cities and neighbors in need,” Zellers and Senjem wrote. “We commit as legislative leaders to support the City of Duluth and the surrounding area – as we have supported the Red River Valley, southeastern Minnesota and other communities struck by natural disasters – recover and rebuild.”

Other parts of the state are also cleaning up from flooding and severe storms, and that could broaden the scope of a special session. Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL South St. Paul, said his suburban district sustained quite a bit of storm damage this week, including his own house. Hansen said he thinks a special session is likely, once local officials make all the the necessary assessments.

“Looking at the north country and the damage they’ve had, and the damage we’ve had in northern Dakota County, it looks like we may have the need for a session,” Hansen said. “But I want to make sure before we call for one we have some good numbers and know exactly what we’re asking for.”

The last weather-related special session was in October 2010, when Gov. Tim Pawlenty called legislators back to St. Paul for a day to pass an $80 million disaster relief package for 30 counties.

UPDATE

Both Zellers and Senjem said they are open to a special session if one is necessary. The two GOP leaders said they plan to travel to Duluth next week to look at the flood damage.

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