Dayton mulling special session for disaster relief

 

An uprooted tree across the road at 35th Street and 45th Avenue South in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis in the aftermath of the severe storm on Friday, June 21, 2013. (MPR Photo/Kate Smith)

Gov. Mark Dayton is in preliminary talks with legislative leaders about a one-day special legislative session to deliver disaster aid to 18 counties that had heavy damage from storms in late June.

Dayton spokesman Bob Hume said Dayton would like to call the special session to ensure that the state share of disaster aid is directed as quickly as possible.

“The state has to pay a share to get this money out to the people who need it, and we need a legislative appropriation to do that,” Hume said. “That’s why we started very early talks on a bipartisan agreement to get that appropriation done and get those funds out.”

President Obama declared a disaster in 18 counties last week.  Preliminary estimates say the storms that occurred from June 20-26 caused $17.8 million in damages to public property like roads and bridges. The storms also caused heavy damage to trees and power lines – knocking out power to 600,000 homes and businesses.

The discussion about a special session has prompted some lawmakers to suggest other items – such as a minimum wage increase or the repeal of the warehousing tax – should also be included. Hume said Dayton has no appetite for that.

“There will be no tolerance for political grandstanding on either side of the aisle when disaster relief is at stake,” Hume said. “If there’s a special session called it will be because there will be a pre-agreed to, written, signed agreement by all four legislative leaders on an agenda that would be focused on getting disaster relief out to the Minnesotans who need it.”

Minnesota’s Constitution says only the governor can call a special session, but the Legislature determines how long the session will last.

It’s common for the Legislature to hold special sessions to pass funding for disaster relief. Lawmakers met for a one day session last August to deliver disaster funding to northeastern Minnesota.