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Minnesota Legislature

Special session brings disaster relief

Published (2/15/2008)
By Mike Cook
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Less than a month after heavy rains resulted in rushing floodwaters creating a path of destruction through parts of southeast Minnesota, state lawmakers met in special session Sept. 11, 2007, to approve a stream of money to help several southeastern Minnesota communities rebuild.

Sponsored by Rep. Ken Tschumper (DFL-La Crescent) and Sen. Sharon Erickson Ropes (DFL-Winona), the $157.3 million law includes state aid to seven counties that were designated federal disaster areas following the Aug. 18-19, 2007, storms. Seven people were killed, nearly 1,500 homes damaged and approximately 300 were destroyed.

Effective Sept. 13, 2007, the law provides $72.3 million of state assistance from the General Fund and $56 million in general obligation bonding. It also includes $1 million from the petroleum tank release fund.

The allocations will assist with homeowner and business cleanup; the refurbishing or rebuilding of public infrastructure, including roads and bridges, school facilities cleanup, repair or replacement; increased student transportation costs; student enrollment changes; replacing state facilities and restoration of natural resources; and help with historic structure cleanup and repair.

The law includes:

• $51 million to replace roads and bridges;

• $45 million for employment and economic development purposes;

• $16 million in low-interest and forgivable loans to homeowners;

• $4.2 million to repair and replace state facilities and restore area natural resources;

• $1 million in property tax abatements for flooded homes and businesses;

• $584,000 in education assistance to include school cleanup and repair, offset enrollment changes and to assist with increased student transportation costs;

• $250,000 for historic site cleanup, repair and replacement costs; and

• $100,000 for the Health Department to conduct indoor air quality investigations and sampling in public facilities and nonprofit organizations.

The law also provides $3.7 million for “flood and drought recovery assistance to affected agricultural producers;” $1 million to help Cook County and Grand Marais with costs associated with a fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness earlier in 2007; $200,000 in fiscal years 2008 and 2009 to Crookston for flood recovery and mitigation issues; and $100,000 in fiscal years 2008 and 2009 to Browns Valley to assist in recovery from a March 14, 2007, flood.

Further, the law includes $2 million to provide a state match necessary to receive $53.2 million in federal grants and aid for the Interstate 35W bridge collapse. It also prohibits insurance companies from stating or implying to a policyholder that filing a claim related to the bridge collapse could result in non-renewal or cancellation of that policy or future premium increases.

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Special session brings disaster relief

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