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MN Legislature OKs $167M N. MN Storm, Flood Relief

Rep. Kate Knuth urged legislators in special session to pay attention to climate changes that make catastrophic weather more likely.

The Minnesota Senate adjourned Friday's special session after following the House of Representatives' lead in approving $167 million in aid for storm-damaged parts of northern Minnesota by a 60-7 vote. All five legislators representing parts of Fridley voted for the bill.

Session Daily reported:

Special Session bills HF1*/ SF1 will aid communities and individuals affected by a series of storms in June and July that caused significant floods in and around Duluth and wind damage in other parts of the state.

The bill now awaits action by Gov. Mark Dayton, who is expected to sign it. Earlier this week, Dayton and the leaders of all four legislative caucuses signed an agreement limiting the special session to one legislative day and to disaster relief only.

The bill will pay the 25 percent local match for federal disaster aid. It will also provide individual relief for homeowners and businesses that were denied federal assistance. (See the spreadsheet.)

Funding will come from the state’s budget reserve and surplus funds left over from the last budget year. A number of transportation-related funds will also be tapped, and some of the spending will be reimbursed by the federal government.

House members representing the affected communities praised the bill and thanked their colleagues for taking quick action. Rep. John Ward (DFL-Baxter) spoke of a pair of his constituents—an elderly World War II veteran and his wife—who were living with a flooded basement, no power and no hot water.

“Today you are providing hope and help to people like that couple,” Ward said.

Some members expressed concern that the bill was being passed in an expedited manner. Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Savage) said lawmakers were abdicating their responsibility by allowing Dayton and the legislative leaders to negotiate the bill’s provisions in private, and by not discussing them in the appropriate House committees. His motion to adjourn the session so that legislators could work on the bill over the weekend failed on a voice vote.

“St. Louis County is in a world of hurt,” said St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg. “Without the Legislature, it would take years for us to recover."

Update (3:30 p.m. Friday): The Minnesota House of Representatives approved $167 million in disaster relief Friday for Duluth and other areas of northern Minnesota damaged by storms and floods in June.

The three DFLers representing parts of Fridley were among 125 House members who voted in favor of the bill in a special session that started at 2 p.m. Three House members voted against the bill.

The Minnesota Senate was still in session considering the bill at 3:30 p.m Friday.

Rep. Kate Knuth, who represents Fridley's southeast corner and is retiring from the Legislature, urged her colleagues to learn how climate change is making extreme weather more common.

"Climate change is happening," said Knuth on the House floor, adding that Minnesota has spent $88 million per year on weather-related disasters during her time in the Legislature.

"We need to be smart about our future when we have more of these significant weather events," Knuth said. "Take just a few minutes, search on the internet, call up a scientist. Ask them [how we are] stacking the dice in favor of more catastrophic weather events.

"We're the kind of people who step up and help other people in need," she said. "We need to make sure Minnesotans have what they need to recover and rebuild in the coming weeks and months and years. ... I hope Minnesotans act in the face of climate change."

Original post: Watch live Friday as the state Legislature meets in special session, with disaster relief for flood- and storm-ravaged northern Minnesota on the agenda.

9 a.m.: House of Representatives Ways and Means committee
10 a.m.: Senate Finance committee
2. p.m.: Full House and Senate in session

Sen. Barb Goodwin (DFL), who represents part of Fridley, is on the Senate Finance Committee.

Rep. Kate Knuth (DFL), in either body, also represents part of Fridley and is . She has taken note when others , and she has on the House floor before. Will she do so again Friday?

More:

Fridley's other representatives include Reps. Tom Tillberry and Carolyn Laine (both DFL) and Sen. Pam Wolf (R).* Like Knuth and Goodwin, they voted for the disaster relief bill.

Video is via The UpTake. Use this multi-channel viewer to choose what you want to see.

Here is how Session Daily previewed the upcoming special session:

Gov. Mark Dayton has called a special session of the Legislature for 2 p.m. Aug. 24 to consider a $167 million funding package to help residents and communities in parts of Minnesota severely affected by June 14-18 wind storms and flooding.

After weeks of negotiations, the governor and legislative leaders agreed to the package, and also that the special session last no longer than one legislative day, it consider only a Disaster Relief Appropriation bill, and another bill allowing for technical corrections to be made, if needed.

The bill has not yet been drafted, but once agreed to by the governor and leadership, no amendments would be accepted or voted on by the bodies.

“I’m glad this part is over, and the parameters are established,” Dayton said at a press briefing.

Money will come from the budget reserve and the surplus remaining from the previous budget year, he said. Additional funds will be allocated through the Trunk Highway Fund resulting from the cancellation of some proposed projects. Dayton said that any unspent money from the appropriation would be returned to the General Fund.

President Obama declared 15 counties and three tribal lands a major disaster. With such a declaration, the federal government pays 75 percent of costs to help fix public infrastructure and requires a 25 percent match. Approximately $25 million from the bill is targeted for the match.

Some help would be available to individuals who experienced damage to their homes. Dayton said approximately $13 million would be available for low-interest loans and temporary housing costs. However, most of the funding will address infrastructure repairs.

Prior to the special session, the House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Friday in room 200 of the State Office Building to discuss the plan.

*Note: An earlier version of this post gave the wrong last name for Sen. Pam Wolf. Thanks to the senator for pointing it out!

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