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House panel OKs $28 million flood prevention bill

A public works bill funding $28 million in flood-prevention projects is expected to reach the full Minnesota House before lawmakers adjourn for the year on May 23, but another funding bill also may be possible.

"I hope and pray there is a bonding bill that follows this," Chairman Larry Howes of the House Capital Investment Committee said Tuesday before it approved via voice vote the bill for flood projects and to improve a Coon Rapids dam so it can stop invasive species from making their way up the Mississippi River.

The Walker Republican said the Department of Natural Resources would have freedom to decide how to spend the flood money, less than a $55 million proposal his committee earlier considered.

Howes told the committee that while he does not know if there will be a second bonding bill, he expects one to surface as Republicans who control the Legislature negotiate with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. But the top Democrat on Howes' committee has her doubts.

"I have no hope and faith there is going to be another bonding bill beyond this one," Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said.

Wadena leaders had hoped to get tornado aid in a disaster-relief bonding bill, specifically funding for the destroyed Wadena Community Center. But the project was left off completely.

Generally, Republicans have opposed a broader bonding bill, while Democrats support one. Dayton called for a $1 billion program that would fund a range of activities such as fixing college buildings, building trails and funding sewage projects. More flood projects also could be included in that bill.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, voted against the bonding bill, saying the state is spending too much money.

Besides the $28 million, Howes' bill also includes about $600,000 that has not been spent from previous bonding bills that could be used for flood projects.

The Senate has taken no action on a flood bill, but is expected to act before the session ends.