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Proposal: Enough with the special sessions

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, Democrats, Republicans Updated: March 31, 2014 - 1:59 PM

A bipartisan cohort of lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton are putting new force behind a move to cut out the need for so many special sessions.

To avoid the need for all 201 legislators to tromp back to the state Capitol to fund disaster relief when floods or other tragedy strikes, the group wants to create a contingency fund that the state could tap to help local communities in trouble. Without that fund in place, governors need to call special sessions to match federal disaster funds.

“When severe weather damages homes and businesses, or a major flood tears through a community, Minnesotans need help as quickly as possible,” Dayton said in a statement. “I urge the Legislature to act during the Unsession to ensure our responses to future disasters are fast, appropriate, and efficient.”

The measure to create the contingency fund is sponsored by Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, and Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul. It has bipartisan co-sponsorship in both the House and Senate.

At least five times in the last dozen years, governors have called special sessions to allow the Legislature to approve disaster funds. Those sessions tend to last only one day at a cost between $30,000 and $40,000.

See a Star Tribune interactive graphic of special sessions, as recorded by the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, sorted by length below. Click on each year to see the primary purpose for each session.

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