Special session called


A special session has been called for 5 p.m. Tuesday to deal with disaster relief for parts of Minnesota. [Ed. note: See today’s Voices articles for analysis and commentary.]

Gov. Tim Pawlenty called the session to deal with disaster issues, predominantly the flooding southeastern Minnesota. It is expected to last one day.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, flooding from the Aug. 18-19 storms has resulted in approximately $67 million in damage to private property and public infrastructure. Nearly 1,500 homes were damaged and approximately 300 destroyed.

A package, which Pawlenty expects to be in the $150 million to $160 million range, is expected to be about 50 percent cash and 50 percent bonding. It should include about $24 million of the $31.8 million in state aid announced last week by the governor.

The package is expected to be ironed out by legislators during committee meetings Tuesday; however, Pawlenty expressed hope that most of the relief will be from forgivable loans. Recipients would not repay such loans if certain conditions are met, such as remaining in the community for a certain period of time.

The final product is also expected to include money for drought relief, costs associated with the fire earlier this year in the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area, and will make permanent some Local Government Aid changes that were temporarily approved for Browns Valley and Crookston to help with previous disaster relief.

Transportation funding is unlikely to be discussed because Pawlenty and DFL leaders continue to disagree on a financing package for roads, bridges and transit.

However, a governor can only call a special session; he cannot control the issues addressed.