Gov. Pawlenty calls special session

ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty is calling lawmakers back to the Capitol today for a brief special legislative session to approve southeastern Minnesota flood cleanup funding.

ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty is calling lawmakers back to the Capitol today for a brief special legislative session to approve southeastern Minnesota flood cleanup funding.

Pawlenty and leaders of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party-controlled Legislature Monday agreed to terms of the special session, to begin at 5 p.m. today. The Republican governor said lawmakers are expected to approve up to about $150 million in flood relief. The session will last no longer than one day, and the agenda is limited to disaster assistance, he said.

"I would be hopeful that all of this can be done in a few hours after the session starts tomorrow," Pawlenty said, noting that all of the top legislative leaders agree on the agenda.

The flood relief proposal provides a mix of cash assistance and state-borrowed funds for public safety, transportation, housing and other needs. The aid package is loosely based on previous state flood assistance legislation for northwestern Minnesota's Red River Valley in 1997 and the Roseau area in 2002.

Cleanup efforts are still under way in southeastern Minnesota, and residents are seeking more state assistance.


"It's very clear that we could not wait much longer," said House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, at a press conference with Pawlenty.

The proposed flood package also could include other disaster assistance. Pawlenty said $1 million is targeted for Cook County after the Ham Lake forest fire earlier this year, and there is agriculture drought relief for other areas of the state.

Cook County Planning Director Tim Nelson said some Cook County commissioners have been working with the state Legislature to get some financial assistance since the Ham Lake fire this spring.

The county spent between $100,000 and $200,000 helping homeowners clean up and dispose of ash and rubble after the fire, Nelson said. Add to that the cost of taking down and clearing away trees that threatened public property, plus repairing roads and public access points that were damaged in the fire, and "there's been a significant amount of work done," Nelson said.

He said he anticipated that anything the Legislature would allocate toward Ham Lake fire relief would help the county cover those costs.

In a letter earlier to Pawlenty, Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller said he disagrees with the governor's plan to include state borrowing in the flood relief package, but said, "I will not stand in the way."

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, said committees will begin finalizing the flood relief legislation this morning.

The Legislature is expected to adjourn no later than 2 p.m. Wednesday, the beginning of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashana.


The Minnesota Constitution allows only the governor to call a special session, while only the Legislature can end one.

Last week, Pawlenty authorized nearly $32 million in emergency aid to the flooded communities but said he needed the Legislature's action to provide more assistance.

There was discussion of adding issues to the special session agenda --- including a comprehensive transportation package -- but there was no agreement.

Pawlenty said Monday it does not appear likely emergency state funds will be necessary to supplement federal funding of the I-35W bridge cleanup.

In addition, Pawlenty said there are no plans in this special session to discuss additional funding for the expansion of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. "This is a bill focused on the disaster relief," Pawlenty said.

News Tribune staff writers Janna Goerdt and Patrick Garmoe contributed to this report.

What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.