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Agreement reached on bridge survivors' compensation

ST. PAUL - Minnesota lawmakers approved a plan Monday to pay survivors of last year's Interstate 35W bridge collapse.

The House voted 127-5 for compromise legislation that stemmed from prolonged negotiations between the House and Senate. Senators followed with a 65-0 vote.

Survivors of the Aug. 1 Minneapolis bridge collapse could seek payments up to $400,000 from a $24 million fund. Another $12.6 million fund is meant to help survivors with the most serious injuries.

By seeking the compensation, survivors waive their right to sue the state. Rep. Ryan Winkler, the lead House negotiator, said the legislation gives bridge collapse survivors "some closure."

"We are acting today, I think, responsibly and fairly," said Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley.

The Senate held a brief moment of silence, followed by applause, in honor of bridge collapse victims and survivors, including some in the Senate gallery.

Lawmakers who voted against it said there should be more public information about individual claims.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty said the deal helps people who were severely injured while recognizing long-standing laws about claims against the state.

"We support the compromise," Pawlenty said. "I think it's a needed and important thing for the bridge victims."