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  Monday September 1st, 2014    

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How to deal with a disaster (08/08/2012)
by State Rep. Gene Pelowski

In 2007 a disaster hit Southeastern Minnesota. The federal, state and local units of government helped to rebuild the homes, businesses and infrastructure damaged or destroyed in the disaster. Something else was also rebuilt in the fall of 2007: the process of how Minnesota would handle future disasters. Starting in October and meeting every two weeks until the legislative session started in January 2008, legislation was crafted to coordinate disaster response of thirteen state agencies and local units of government. As Chair of the House Governmental Operations, Reform, Technology, and Elections Committee, I took the responsibility to create what would eventually become with Governor Tim Pawlenty’s signature in February of 2008, Chapter 12A, the first permanent legal framework in Minnesota history on how to handle a disaster.

When a natural disaster like a flood or tornado hits, there is often little warning. That is why our state responders needed clear, consistent procedures to ensure their immediate reaction. Chapter12A outlines those procedures. It was obvious that piecing together legislation from previous disasters in a short special session was not the best way to address the complex problems that disasters create. Since 2008 Chapter 12A has been the playbook for the way Minnesota can coordinate its resources effectively in what can be a very chaotic situation. Chapter 12A lays out specific responsibilities for each of the thirteen state agencies traditionally involved in disaster response operations including:

1. Agriculture

2. Board of Water and Soil Resources

3. Education

4. Employment and Economic Development

5. Health

6. Housing Finance

7. Human Services

8. Minnesota Historical Society

9. Natural Resources

10. Pollution Control Agency

11. Public Facilities Authority

12. Public Safety

13. Transportation

While Chapter12A lays out these respective responsibilities, it does not establish a specific amount of state funding to be distributed by these agencies. That has to be decided on a case by case situation.

On Tuesday, August 7, 2012, I will attend a meeting to draft the specific funding response to the Northern Minnesota floods. Chapter12A will be used as the framework for the draft legislation that will be presented to legislators to address the disaster in Northern Minnesota in the upcoming special session. Government at its best can be used to improve people’s lives and address concerns that only the resources of an entire state are capable of doing. Chapter12A was created through the actions of public hearings with bipartisan support to ensure that when disasters strike, Minnesota can be prepared to do its very best to help those in need.

 

 

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