Minnesota leaders agree to special session for disaster relief
By Greg Janetka
ST. PAUL, Minnesota: After meeting with legislative leaders yesterday, Governor Mark Dayton (D) announced there will be a special session to address flood relief. Tentatively scheduled for late August, a date has not yet been scheduled as state and local officials are waiting to hear how much the federal government will cover.
Officials are also waiting to hear the full scope of the damage. While Dayton estimates damages to public infrastructure at $108 million, he said it could be as high as $150 million. "On the one hand, we feel that urgency. On the other, we need to know, as close as we can, the totality of what is needed and for what purposes, so the session can come in and take care of everything in that session in one day," the governor said.
The special session may also address previous disasters, such as the Verso Paper Mill, which was destroyed by a fire in May, and the 2010 tornado that damaged public facilities in Wadena. Dayton has made it clear from the beginning, however, that he only wants the session to address disaster relief, something the legislature has historically come together on. That hasn't stopped some from trying to interject divisive, partisan issues into the session.
Sen. Sean Nienow (R) wants the special session to also deal with the titles of two constitutional amendment questions that will be on the ballot in November. The titles to the questions, one of which seeks to ban same sex-marriage, while the other would require photo ID at the polls, were changed by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (D).
While some Republicans support Nienow's move, Republican Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers came out against it, saying, "To bring this issue into that would be a disservice to those people that have had their lives completely disrupted, completely upended and have no idea where they're going to go, what they're going to do and how they're going to provide for themselves. I don't think that that would be appropriate."
Since the beginning of 2012, there have been 15 special sessions in 13 states.
- Duluth News Tribune, "Minnesota officials pledge cooperation to deliver disaster relief," July 12, 2012 (dead link)
- Minnesota Public Radio, "Dayton, lawmakers agree on flood aid special session," July 11, 2012
- Jamestown Sun, "Minnesota officials eye late-August disaster legislative session," July 11, 2012 (dead link)