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Willmar lawmaker to lead disaster-relief planning

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news Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Sen. Joe Gimse will lead Senate efforts to develop a disaster-relief bill, probably starting with a meeting next week.

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As Senate Transportation Committee chairman and a member of the public works funding committee, Senate leaders say the Willmar Republican's experience fits with the disaster bill's needs.

Senate GOP spokesman Steve Sviggum said a meeting of legislators and staff from the governor's office to deal with the issue tentatively is set for Tuesday afternoon.

Sviggum said several senators and representatives will meet in what is expected to be a public meeting as drafting a bill begins. Lawmakers from both parties, especially those in areas where damage occurred, will be involved, he said.

Kandiyohi County, where Gimse lives, is one of 13 counties the federal government declared disaster areas after floods and other storm damage occurred in June. Much of the damage came in northeastern Minnesota, including Duluth, where a preliminary estimate put the cost at $108 million.

Local, state and federal officials are working on a final damage report.

A bill to fund the state's share of disaster relief is expected to pass during a one-day special legislative session late this month. Federal funds cover 75 percent of local government and state costs to repair public infrastructure; the bill would provide the remaining 25 percent.

The federal government rejected Minnesota's request for aid for individuals and businesses, but Gov. Mark Dayton said he planned to appeal that decision this week. Some legislators say they want to look into helping people whose property sustained significant damage in June floods.

There also is discussion about providing aid in areas that sustained wind damage last month.

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