Ventura expected to sign bills from special session

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 20, 2002

ST. PAUL &045; After a one-day special session of the Legislature, Gov. Jesse Ventura planned to sign a $31.8 million flood-relief measure Friday.

The bill was passed by the House and Senate Thursday in a session that legislative leaders had pledged to restrict to the measure and two relatively minor changes in tax policy.

The relief bill covers 16 northwestern Minnesota counties and also provides help in Wright, McLeod and Goodhue counties &045; all hit hard by floods in June and July. More than $26 million of it will be borrowed, including more than $11 million taken from a highway fund.

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&uot;It will give people that extra shot in the arm,&uot; said Jeff Pelowski, mayor of Roseau, the city of 2,100 near the Canadian border that suffered the most extensive damage this summer.

About 100 families, out of 1,100 in the city, are still living in Federal Emergency Management Agency campers and 20 of the town’s 190 businesses are still closed, Pelowski said.

Under the bill, farmers with crop damage can qualify for aid of up to $4 an acre. Some businesses will get extensions on property tax payment deadlines. The bill contains about $2 million for flood prevention and control and $5 million for road and bridge repair. About $8.3 million will be used to leverage federal emergency funds.

&uot;Flooding in the northern and central areas of the state has had a disastrous effect on many families whose homes and businesses were

damaged or destroyed,&uot; said Rep. Dan Dorman, R-Albert Lea. &uot;The primary goal of this flood relief legislation is to help jump-start the recovery process.&uot;

The state assistance builds on more than $25 million in federal help to flood-damaged areas in the state.

The lawmakers also knocked off two quick votes to fix tax policies that confused courts and regulators.

In one, they allowed the approximately 24,000 Minnesotans who use the state’s alternative minimum tax to deduct charitable contributions &045; no matter where the charity is. A challenge reached the Minnesota Supreme Court, and justices last month declared the current law unconstitutional and threw out the deduction.

In the other, they made clear that gravel should be exempt from the sales tax. The Revenue Department’s interpretation of a bill passed this spring put gravel in the sales tax, against the intentions of tax-writing lawmakers.

But despite the limited number of bills, the special session took longer than leaders expected.

The House needed a two-hour recess and some intense negotiating to pass the flood-relief bill after a southern Minnesota legislator, Rep. Ted Winter of Fulda, tried to secure aid for drought-stricken farmers in Rock, Nobles and Jackson counties.

&uot;Before Gov. Ventura called the session, he made it clear that any additional items added would cause the whole package to be vetoed, Dorman said. &uot;While it is Rep. Winter’s right to offer the amendment, it does not make it right to do so. Every member on the floor today could offer amendments that would help their district, but at the end of the day, the bill would be vetoed.&uot;