$80M relief bill passes during special session

The relief will go toward rebuilding communities struck by tornadoes and flooding.

by James Nord

âÄúThe motion prevails, the session is adjourned,âÄù House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said Monday, banging her gavel for the last time.
Kelliher, chosen as Speaker in 2006, led the House in an unexpected special session for flood and tornado relief in outstate Minnesota.
The LegislatureâÄôs $80 million relief bill passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate. Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed it later in the day.
Legislative leadership met with Pawlenty beginning about 10 days ago to iron out the details of the bill, Kelliher said.
âÄúItâÄôs really important to relieve [the affected people] of any more trauma if we can,âÄù she said. âÄúMaking this process as smooth as possible, thatâÄôs important to us.âÄù
Severe storms and flooding that began Sept. 22 devastated 21 southern Minnesota counties and prompted an Oct. 13 federal disaster declaration.
The declaration specifies the federal government will cover 75 percent of costs associated with repairing public buildings and roads in the affected areas.
A separate declaration from July 2 for severe tornadoes that caused damage in at least 13 Minnesota counties specified similar terms.
MondayâÄôs was one of seven special sessions in the past decade. An hours-long special session was convened in May to finish balancing the stateâÄôs budget.
For some departing lawmakers who thought they had left the Capitol for good, the special session came as a nostalgic surprise.
âÄúThereâÄôs certainly lifelong friendships and kinship with people,âÄù Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said.
Seifert, who is leaving the Legislature after an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid, said returning to the Capitol was unexpected.
After Republican candidate Tom Emmer beat Seifert for the partyâÄôs endorsement in April, the Marshall lawmaker said he planned to spend more time with his family. He recently accepted a leadership position at a hospital foundation in his hometown.
But SeifertâÄôs colleagues, even those from across the aisle, will feel his absence.
âÄúOne of the people IâÄôll miss, because IâÄôve worked with him closely on lots of things, is Marty Seifert from the Republican caucus,âÄù Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said.
But âÄúnot if his replacement is a Democrat,âÄù she joked.
At least 18 Legislators âÄî 12 Representatives and six Senators âÄî arenâÄôt running for re-election, according to capitol clerkâÄôs office data. Often, redistricting causes more people than usual to retire, Kelliher said. GovernorâÄôs races are unique, she said, because they often raise the profile of departing lawmakers. Kelliher left her seat to pursue her partyâÄôs nomination, which she lost to former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton.
Sen. Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, is retiring to challenge U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Congressional District 6.
âÄúItâÄôs good to see everybody,âÄù retiring Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said. âÄúI wish that circumstances were different.âÄù
There was less debate over the bill than expected, Kelliher said. Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, did take the opportunity to criticize Emmer and Pawlenty.
Emmer, who is leaving the Legislature regardless of his success in attaining the governorâÄôs mansion, was nonchalant.
âÄúIâÄôve done my time, IâÄôve done my service,âÄù Emmer said. âÄúThis is a great group of people, itâÄôs a good process. IâÄôm not going that far away, but I just wonâÄôt be here every day.âÄù
Kelliher feels differently. SheâÄôll miss taking part in âÄúdaily democracy.âÄù
 âÄúYou really do get used to the rhythm of the place,âÄù she said. âÄúIt has elements of a family, good and bad.âÄù
But few of the retiring lawmakers would name specific colleagues theyâÄôd miss the most.
âÄúI canâÄôt start naming them,âÄù Kelliher said. âÄúItâÄôs like children: If you start naming, itâÄôs like, âÄòWho do you love more?âÄôâÄù