Senate Finance Committee OKs $25 million for 35W victims

  • Article by: Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 11, 2008 - 1:41 AM

The fund is $15 million smaller than one approved by the state House last month to compensate victims of the Aug. 1 disaster.

The Senate Finance Committee Monday approved a $25 million fund to compensate victims of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, sending the proposal to the Senate floor as early as Thursday.

The proposal differs from the $40 million fund approved two weeks ago by the House, meaning the issue will probably be settled in a conference committee.

While the Senate version puts a $400,000 cap on each claim, the House bill has no limit on money available to individuals. Under both bills, any award could be offset by payments a person might receive from health insurance or lawsuits against bridge contractors.

The House bill would bar insurance companies from reducing or eliminating payments to those compensated by the state.

"It's more fair to everyone involved," Sen. Ron Latz, the chief author of the Senate version, said of his proposal after the committee meeting. "I want to learn how [the House] came up with their dollar amount.

"I think $25 million will be more than enough," added Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park.

As the issue builds momentum, other organizations have begun questioning the extent of the state's obligation to the victims of the Aug. 1 disaster.

"Frankly, it is difficult to explain why those affected by the bridge tragedy should have the potential to recover more than those who suffer loss or injury as a result of other government actions," Tom Grundhoefer, general counsel for the League of Minnesota Cities, said in a letter supporting a state cap on claims by victims.

MIKE KASZUBA

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