Bakk Suggests Letting House Take Lead On Disaster Aid

The question on everyone’s mind during a news conference about a special disaster aid legislative session was whether Republican leaders could keep their members from bringing up other issues.

For instance, Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, has mentioned the possibility of changing state law to remove Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s power to write constitutional amendment titles. The issue angers Republicans because Ritchie, a Democrat, rewrote titles for two GOP-backed constitutional amendment proposals that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

When asked if they could keep the special session limited to disaster relief, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, and Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said they did not think it would be proper to take up other issues, but neither promised to control their members.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he had a solution for what some consider a potential problem.

Zellers’ Republican House caucus is much less likely to allow other subjects to take away from disaster relief, Bakk said, so the House should pass a disaster bill during what is expected to be a one-day late-August session and then go home. That would leave the Senate to either accept what the House passed or reject disaster aid all together, an unlikely outcome.

“The Senate (Republican) caucus is pretty unpredictable,” Bakk said.

Bakk’s scenario could play out because the Constitution requires the aid bill for communities affected by recent floods and wind storms to begin in the House.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton made it clear that he trusts Republican leaders, even though they avoided a direct answer to whether they could control their caucuses. The governor said he will rely on GOP leaders to find a way to rule anything other than disaster aid out of order.