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Winona lawmaker thinking of alternative to special sessions

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After weeks of shadowboxing between Gov. Mark Dayton and Minnesota lawmakers, you probably knew that someone wouldn't be happy with the special legislative session set for Monday.

And you'd be right. That someone is state Rep. Gene Pelowski, a Democrat from Winona, who thinks things like the session to commence Monday to disburse some $4.7 million is disaster relief should be a thing of the past.

“If all we’re doing is matching federal money, particularly at a low figure like $4.5 million, that should not require a special session,” Pelowski tells WCCO. Pelowski said he hopes to introduce legislation next year for a permanent fund that state officials could draw from whenever the state needs to match federal disaster relief funds.

Special sessions for disaster relief have grown increasingly common, with six since 1997 and four since 2007, according to the Associated Press.

Gov. Mark Dayton supports such a fund, reports KARE 11. But former House Speaker Steve Sviggum, a veteran of several disaster-relief sessions, says it's not wise to take such spending decisions away from lawmakers.

The idea for a permanent disaster relief account was first floated by Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles, says the AP. It would likely be funded with leftover money from previous disaster relief allocations.

“You’re putting spending on automatic pilot, and that’s rarely a good direction to be going,” Sviggum tells the Associated Press. “We’ve seen situations like that often lead to unintended consequences.”

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