Lawmakers to meet on disaster relief

State lawmakers will meet Tuesday to begin discussing the scope of a disaster relief package that they could soon take up in a special session.

House and Senate GOP leaders told their members via an email today that the session is now tentatively set for Friday, Aug. 24. However, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has not yet made that call.

Legislators are scheduled to get an update Tuesday from state officials on the extent of the government response so far in the 13 affected counties. They’ll also revisit a legislative auditor’s report from earlier this year that evaluated past recovery efforts.

Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, the transportation committee chair and designated relief bill author, said the meeting is an important first step in the process.

“I don’t know that we’ll have a good idea what the bill will look like, but we’ll have a good idea of what the amounts will be and what the damage assessments will be,” Gimse said.

Gimse said legislators will have to decide whether to use bonds to cover the relief costs or tap existing state funds.

Democrats are ready to help. House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said he expects a bipartisan effort to address the needs of affected communities.

“People are going to be focused very directly on the task at hand, which is making sure the Legislature does its part in helping out these families that were affected by the floods,” Thissen said. “I don’t get any indication from talking to Republicans in leadership or otherwise — or Democrats — that there’s going to be a whole lot of politics in this.”

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