Jul 12, 2012 at 8:37 am
ST. PAUL, MN (KNSI) – After much speculation, a timeline has started to materialize for a special state legislative session to deal with disaster relief for the victims of the major flooding in northeastern Minnesota last month.
Governor Mark Dayton and state lawmakers met at the capitol Wednesday to discuss the particulars of a special session. There is no specific date for the session, but the hope is for some time in the final two weeks of August.
"I want to thank all four leaders for being here, and for agreeing to work together in a cooperative way," Governor Dayton said. "As I've said before, when there is a disaster we are not republicans or democrats we are all Minnesotans."
Dayton says the focus of the session will be solely on disaster relief.
A report this week indicated flood damage in Carlton County alone has topped the 100-million dollar mark. As for the total damage in dollars and cents, that is something lawmakers will wait to find out before heading to special session.
"When disaster strikes, Minnesota comes together, not only its people, friends, neighbors helping other affected friends and neighbors, but certainly units of government," Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said.
The state has asked the federal government to declare the region a disaster area and they've already requested $108 million in disaster aid. If FEMA comes through with that money, 25% of the aid would have to come from the state, requiring legislative approval.
As they set plans for state aid, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk praised efforts already underway to help get the lives of all those affected back on track.
"There has been a remarkable volunteer effort in trying to get people lives, who've been turned very upside down, up-righted again and put some stability back in their families," Bakk said.
Despite the flood-geared nature of the session, Governor Dayton has indicated lawmakers could also address the Verso paper mill situation in Sartell. The mill has been shut down since a Memorial Day explosion and fire, and the state has been working with Verso on ways to fund repairs and get the plant back into production. Most of the 250-plus workers at the mill have been laid off.