Special session may not be needed

Published 4:08 pm Saturday, August 17, 2013

ST. PAUL  — Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders agreed Friday that Sept. 9 is the date they would hold a possible special session, but also said it might not be necessary after all.

Mark Dayton

Mark Dayton

Dayton and the Legislature’s top four leaders met for about an hour in Dayton’s office. They discussed a one-day special session to pass state disaster aid for 18 Minnesota counties hit hard by storms, high winds and flooding in late June.

President Barack Obama recently signed a federal declaration for the counties, paving the way for federal aid for recovery and rebuilding efforts. That money must be matched by $4.5 million from the state, but legislative leaders said after meeting with Dayton that it might be possible to use unspent funds from previous disasters to temporarily cover that expense until next year’s regular legislative session.

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“Ideally we’d prefer not to have a special session,” Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said, citing the expense to the state. He said the administration is researching whether such a temporary fund transfer is possible.

The lawmakers agreed that if it’s not possible, then the special session to approve disaster aid would be held on Sept. 9. But there was no agreement on whether lawmakers would be allowed to bring up other issues.

Dayton said recently he’d also be open to repeal of a recently enacted sales tax on farm equipment. But Republicans have said if that tax is repealed, that majority Democrats should also consider appealing several other taxes that the Legislature approved last spring.

Bakk and House Speaker Paul Thissen threw cold water on that idea after the meeting, saying they didn’t know where to get money to repeal the additional taxes.

Dayton and the legislative leaders planned to meet again next week. Thissen said they hoped to reach a final agreement on whether a special session is necessary, and if so whether there would be votes on anything besides disaster aid.