Senate Republicans aim to exclude Twin Cities rioting damage from state disaster aid

A Minnesota Senate committee has advanced a proposal that would prevent damages from civil unrest from being eligible for state disaster funding.

The plan would apply retroactively if passed into law, and it could allow for the clawback of state funds paid out to help repair damage from looting and riots that occurred in Minneapolis and St. Paul following the Memorial Day police killing of George Floyd.

Damage from the riots was estimated to exceed $500 million and the Trump administration denied a request for federal funding to help offset the cost of cleanup and recovery. Gov. Tim Walz authorized the transfer of more than $12 million over the summer to help Hennepin County address fire damage.

On Monday, the Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee said the state’s disaster laws were meant to deal with natural disasters and that taxpayers in greater Minnesota shouldn’t be asked to foot the bill for the damage in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

“I want to make sure the taxpayers of Minnesota are not paying for something that by the actions of our executive branch and the mayor of Minneapolis perhaps were exacerbated. And I’ve heard over and over again from greater Minnesota, from my constituents, ‘Please do not pay for this out of our taxpayer dollars,’” said the bill’s author Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center. “I think there’s other ways of dealing with this.”

Democrats on the panel, meanwhile, pointed to the list of those charged in connection with the looting and arson fires in the area and said many came from outside the Twin Cities to wreak havoc. And they, along with emergency managers from around the state, said that writing civil unrest out of the covered damages could have unintended adverse effects.

“If we want to visit the blame on the people who caused the damage rather than on the victims of the damage, then we should be visiting this blame statewide,” said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park. “I think this just isn’t necessary.”

The bill moves now to the full Senate for consideration, and a House version was filed Monday. Its path forward in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor led House of Representatives remains unclear.

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