Lawmakers, governor agree to special session


Lawmakers will convene for a brief special session sometime in the coming weeks to pass a disaster relief package that will aid communities affected by flooding in southern Minnesota.

At a press conference, legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Pawlenty said they have tentatively agreed to a one-day special session to pass a flood relief bill. The governor hopes to call lawmakers back to the Capitol between Oct. 7-12; Pawlenty said state and federal officials will first conduct damage assessments to determine how much aid is needed.

Leaders from both parties stressed their commitment to work together with the governor to pass flood relief legislation quickly and efficiently.

“We stand together, we stand united, and we’re going to get the work done as quickly as possible,” said House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL-Mpls).

After damage assessments are completed, Pawlenty said he will ask President Obama to make an official disaster declaration. He and legislative leaders will then “pre-agree” on a relief package before a special session is called.

“We want to move, and will move, as quickly as absolutely possible, but we want to do that after we make sure that we have the right information,” Pawlenty said.

In addition to funding repairs to public infrastructure, the governor said the expected relief package might also include special assistance to farmers, small businesses and individual homeowners.

Pawlenty expressed confidence that the state could fund an adequate relief package despite its ongoing budget problems. He said the state has a projected $235 million positive cash balance between now and the end of the current biennium, which includes $230 million in enhanced Medicaid payments recently authorized by Congress. He said the state’s cash flow account, special dedicated funds and bonding are all potential funding sources for flood relief.

Special sessions focusing on flood relief are not unusual for the state. Most recently, the Legislature passed a $157 million aid package for southeastern Minnesota during a one-day special session in 2007.