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Lawmakers pass flood relief in special session

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich called it “fast and focused’ and that sums up the legislature’s action on special session flood and tornado relief.  The House and Senate took less than an hour to debate the bill.  Lawmakers from flooded areas took the lead, Rep. Kory Kath (DFL-Owatonna) said the $80 million package “goes beyond partisanship.”  Sen. Ann Lynch (DFL-Rochester) said legislation was assembled in “very bipartisan fashion.”  The bill passed both chambers with unanimous support.  It generally felt like a welcome break from the partisan campaign trail.

The always feisty Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) repeatedly referenced Republican candidate for governor Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano) and Emmer’s past votes against flood relief.   Rukavina went so far to say any candidate “who thinks the budget can be solved without revenue is either nuts in the head or a B.S.er, Rep. Emmer I know you’re not a B.S.er.”   Emmer didn’t take the bait.  Rukavina pointed out the irony of Gov. Tim Pawlenty not wanting federal money but said the bill has “75% federal money.”

The Senate was spared most of the politics, although some found fault with the federal government.  Sen. Mike Parry (R-Waseca) said this was the legislation we’ve been waiting on “but we waited for the president’s disaster declaration for too long.”  Sen. Claire Robling (R-Jordan) added “there is something missing, Scott County” which was left out of the disaster declaration.  Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) said “we’re not taking up the bullying bill, that’s fine” but he wanted people to know he was not playing politics, but trying to stop suicides.

One of the most emotional moments came as Rep. David Dill (DFL-Crane Lake) returned to the Capitol just six days after having a kidney transplant.  His colleagues gave him a standing ovation upon his return to the House floor.  Dill thanked his kidney donor and joked that a lobbyist offered him an organ but that was determined to be a gift of significant value (against a state gift ban).

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