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Tentative special flood session set for Monday

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By Don Davis

State Capitol Bureau

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota legislators will meet in a brief special session Monday to fund flood relief, if the federal government declares parts of the state a disaster area yet this week.

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"Our fellow Minnesotans are suffering and in need of swift action by their government at this time," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. "Completing this legislative work will aid in that effort."

The session is set to begin at 1 p.m. Monday. However, Pawlenty's office reported that if the federal disaster declaration does not come by Friday, the Republican governor may be forced to call the session later.

A preliminary damage estimate for public infrastructure is $64.1 million. If a federal declaration is made, as state officials expect, Washington would pay 75 percent of the costs.

The special session would appropriate state money to cover what is not funded by the federal dollars.

Pawlenty said he expects lawmakers to finish their work Monday. Legislative leaders said they plan to hold committee hearings, perhaps before the session convenes, to get public input.

Flooding brought on by record and near-record rainfalls began on Sept. 22. Some rivers remain out of their banks.

Pawlenty is seeking federal aid for 21 counties: Blue Earth, Cottonwood, Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Goodhue, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Martin, Mower, Murray, Olmsted, Pipestone, Rice, Rock, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Watonwan and Winona.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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