By Don Davis
Minnesota lawmakers return to St. Paul Monday to appropriate $4.5 million to help local governments in recover from June storms and floods.
Gov. Mark Dayton signed the proclamation scheduling the special legislative session Friday afternoon after four legislative leaders signed off on language in a two-page bill they will consider.
The 10 a.m. session, expected to be preceded by a Senate committee hearing, must wrap up by 7 a.m. Tuesday under a deal Dayton and legislative leaders earlier signed. The only other action lawmakers are allowed to take will be to free up $219,000 in aid for communities affected by an April ice storm.
“When a disaster strikes, Minnesotans expect us to respond,” said Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, who last year worked for flood-relief money for his northeastern Minnesota area.
The $4.5 million is a match for federal payments that will pay for most of the $18 million in damages local governments sustained during the June 20-26 storms and floods.
The funds are destined only for local governments; home and business owners are not eligible. The state money comes from unused funds appropriated to help communities affected by floods and wind storms last year, with no new tax money needed.
The June storms affected parts of central, western and southern Minnesota.
The only controversy as the special session was being considered came when Dayton insisted on adding $1 million for Rock and Nobles counties, two of five southwestern Minnesota counties hit by an April ice storm that caused $26 million in damage. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he could not agree to Dayton’s plan.
The only action the Legislature is to take about the ice storm is making it easier for the two counties and city of Worthington to get money lawmakers appropriated in May. Each of the counties is to get $60,000 and Worthington is slated to receive $99,000.
The counties to split $4.5 million are Benton, Big Stone, Douglas, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Grant, Hennepin, Houston, McLeod, Morrison, Pope, Sibley, Stearns, Stevens, Swift, Traverse and Wilkin.