Minn. lawmakers convene disaster relief session

Published 6:56 am Tuesday, September 10, 2013

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Legislature on Monday opened what was scheduled to be a brief special session to approve disaster relief money, though some lawmakers sought consideration of everything from increase of a range of recent sales tax increases to legislation related to the ongoing Minnesota Vikings stadium construction.

The House and Senate gaveled in at 10 a.m., and then quickly recessed so committees could review the $4.5 million disaster aid bill. Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders from both parties agreed that it would be the only bill debated, and leaders hoped to wrap up by dinner.

But rank-and-file lawmakers introduced 45 other bills, knowing they had little chance for consideration. “Nothing is going to happen to them,” said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.

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Both Democrats and Republicans proposed sales tax repeals. The top targets were new sales taxes on farm equipment repairs, storage and warehousing services, and on transactions between businesses. There were bills to repeal authorization for a union organizing vote by some home daycare providers, and several bills related to the ongoing Minnesota Vikings stadium construction.

Dayton and Democratic leaders signaled willingness to consider repeal of some sales taxes but could not agree with Republicans on how far to go so they left it off the special session agenda.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said Republicans were only reluctantly on board with the special session’s small frame.

“We really feel we’re missing an opportunity to take care of some of the mistakes the Democrats made,” he said.

The disaster relief bill covers the state’s 25 percent share of an estimated $18 million in damage from a week of severe storms that swept through the state beginning June 20, causing widespread wind and flooding damage. The federal government is covering the rest.

The path of damage ran diagonally from far northwestern Minnesota to the southeastern corner of the state. The aid money can be used to pay for debris removal, sandbagging and repair to roads, bridges, water treatment plants, golf courses and other public recreation areas.