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The Senate Office Building and the posturing of the minority

MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
Now that the Senate Office Building is nearing completion and ready for use, the Senate GOP wants to continue to complain and milk those complaints as a campaign issue indefinitely.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann has been curmudgeonly complaining about the “lavish” Senate office building for more than a year. He and his caucus are planning a kind of boycott of the building by staying in their current digs in the State Office Building. 

Yes, Hann is going to teach that Senate Majority a lesson. He is going to rob them of any Republican presence in the new building. What will the Democrats do?

Well, probably they will pick out the prime office space and go about their business. And since the 2016 Senate sessions will be held in the new building (because the renovation has forced them out of the Capitol), I guess the Republicans will get some exercise walking back and forth — and hope they don’t forget something in their office. (Might see interns beating a path between the buildings keeping up with that.)

But Hann’s complaints are a continuation of a Republican pattern. They continue their “no is the only answer” response to pretty much everything and then just expect somebody else to fix the problem.

When the Senate office building was proposed, the need for the space was not in question. The Capitol renovation would be booting the resident majority Senators out of the space and the opportunity to have all the Senators housed in one building presented itself. The old State Office Building is probably still serviceable for awhile longer, but not without additional upkeep and renovation expense. So why not pool the money into a new building that will maintain the Senate for another hundred years. Yes, Sen. Bakk probably got carried away with his office wish list, but that was justifiably walked back. 

So now that the building is nearing completion and ready for use, the Senate GOP wants to continue to complain and milk those complaints as a campaign issue indefinitely.

Still, complaints aside, what exactly would the Senate minority have done to solve the space issue? Yes, they could continue in their current digs, but where would the other 40 plus Senators go? Senator Hann did not offer a Plan B to the “lavish” Senate office building. I mean a complaint is only legitimate if you have a better solution.

That seems to be the MN GOP modus operandi — MNsure, Medicaid, Senate Office Building, Transportation, Education — the same pattern presents itself. They vote no and then complain about what gets done, without ever putting something on record that provides an alternative.

My guess, when all is said and done, that the GOP Minority senators will end up trudging their way over to the new building and setting up shop. They will, of course, have to take up the leftover space because of the “hold out,” but even that will probably be an improvement on their aging space in the State Office Building.

When we finally get past all of the posturing maybe, just maybe the legislature can get back to doing what they are supposed to be doing — the people’s business.

This post was written by Dave Mindeman and originally published on mnpACT! Progressive Political Blog. Follow Dave on Twitter: @newtbuster.

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/19/2015 - 10:27 am.

    SOB II

    “When the Senate office building was proposed, the need for the space was not in question. ”

    But it certainly was at the time it was passed. There were alternatives then to a new office building and there are alternatives today. As the author suggests, there are many more important issues than the Senate Office Building, and it’s frustrating to me, that once it became a political target it just wasn’t simply dropped. Sure it would be nice to have the new building. But it wasn’t worth the loss of a single legislative seat and it certainly wasn’t worth the loss of the house majority in 2014.

  2. Submitted by joe smith on 10/19/2015 - 12:48 pm.

    So the GOP taking a stand versus MNsure, Senate Office building, transportation and education with the simple question of are we getting our money’s worth is posturing and complaining? Tax and spend has to have checks and balances.

  3. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/19/2015 - 02:15 pm.

    The alternative

    “Still, complaints aside, what exactly would the Senate minority have done to solve the space issue?’

    I would have had them double up with their house counterparts. Or at least that would have been my modest proposal.

  4. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 10/19/2015 - 03:24 pm.

    Think about it

    If both Democrats and Republicans were in the new building they might have to work together. That could lead to one disaster after another. I suspect some day the Republicans will put on their big boy pants and move to the new building. It was fine to object before the building was built, but now it is time to put that in the GOP past, as a failure, move on, and find the next thing that bugs them. That will take a total of 15 minutes. The GOP circus continues.

  5. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 10/19/2015 - 09:42 pm.

    Will the new building

    Actually house all the Senators? I thought that one of the complaints about the new building was that it still wouldn’t hold all the Senate offices, staff and Senators. Perhaps this was changed and I would be pleased if I was incorrect.

    • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/20/2015 - 06:42 am.

      The new building

      I am not clear on a lot of things about the new Senate Office building, actually, but ignorance has never stopped me from having an opinion. Currently the majority has offices in the capitol. Senior majority senators have very convenient offices, not very large, but a few steps from the capitol floor. Minority senators have their offices behind a rather obscure door in the Senate Office Building. Early on, the intent was to create an Senate building that would not have offices for all, effectively creating two classes of senators. I believe those plans were changed and now the new building will have offices for all. Nevertheless the uninformed cynic in me is suggesting that those convenient capitol offices will survive, and remain offices for senior senators, which undermines the argument that a new office building was need, in my opinion, at least.

      I was never at all impressed by the transitional argument; that we needed a permanent new building because the capitol would be closed for a while. We didn’t need a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I actually kind of like the idea of doubling of offices. It really might lead to closer cooperation between legislators and parties.

  6. Submitted by Bill Willy on 10/19/2015 - 10:19 pm.

    David Hann should know

    November 26, 2013

    “Eden Prairie unveils updated designs, increased costs for new pools

    “More amenities added $2.9 million to the preliminary budget estimates.

    “Plans for two new community pools in Eden Prairie are taking shape — one of the city’s largest recreation projects in recent years.

    “The project to upgrade the Eden Prairie Community Center’s 30-year-old pool includes replacing the pool and adding a recreation pool to keep up with growing demand for pool space. But costs to do the major renovation are adding up.

    “In an earlier feasibility study, the city projected the two pools and renovations would cost $16.5 million. But last week, staff from HGA Architects presented updated designs, which include added fitness space, doubled spectator seating from 150 to 300 seats, a hot tub and changing the new lap pool from a 12-lane lap pool to two 8-lane lap pools based on community feedback. The new cost: an estimated $19.4 million.”

    I realize $19.4 million is less than one-fourth of $90 million. But then again, that’s $19 million worth of swimming pools that are inSIDE the Eden Prairie Community Center: Just a PART of a “public ammenity” I wasn’t able find the overall original cost of building. But, judging from the “blueprint”…

    … the rest of the place wasn’t cheap to build either (I think there may be a hockey rink in there too — not sure; someone will have to ask Dave).

    And one his “not so happy about spending the money” constituents in Eden Prairie happened to point out, “less than 5% of residents are members.” (

    Eden Prairie’s population was 63,228 in 2014 ( which would mean somewhere around 3,100 people are Community Center members which means those enhanced pool amenities would cost right around $6,250 per member, or $300 per Eden Prairie resident.

    $90,000,000 divided by 5,400,000 = $17 per Minnesota resident.

    So when it comes to all that wasteful spending on mindless luxury David Hann and his colleagues have been talking all these years, it looks like the cost of the Senate office building is somewhere around $280 per resident less than Eden Prairie’s new pools.

    But I suppose that isn’t a fair comparison because the Senate office building doesn’t HAVE any pools in it (does it?).

    P.S. Happened to see a Mary Lahammer tour of the “almost done” office building on Almanac last Friday and it didn’t look all that “lavish” to me. It looked great. Like it was very well designed and constructed. Contemporary, but not at all ostentatious or outlandish. Appropriately scaled and oriented (to its surroundings and the Capitol Building), solid, full of light, built to last, and, maybe most importantly, like a place Senators and visiting Minnesotans would feel real good about being, and maybe even a little proud of.

    The “Republican outlook on things” just seems so odd.

    • Submitted by joe smith on 10/20/2015 - 09:46 am.

      Bill, you make a great point that ALL tax and spend has to be checked and balanced as to how much good it will do by opposing view points so “we the people” can figure out if our tax dollars/govt projects are helping us or just wasteful spending. That goes for MNsure, transportation, education, welfare and other big programs as well as small pet projects that our elected officials try to sneak in our budgets. The money they spend is ours, we should have a all the information we can get to see if they are using it wisely.

      • Submitted by Bill Willy on 10/20/2015 - 02:32 pm.

        Thanks Joe…

        I could write a mini-book about this one, but, for now, I’ll just say I think most of what you’re saying here is something you and I would agree on to a much greater extent than anyone familiar with what “polar opposites” we almost always represent could believe (including you and me).

        Like I say, more on that some other time. But, to sum it up, I think what you’re saying here, and what I say about similar things SOMEtimes, has a lot to do with what I think MIGHT have something to do with what I keep thinking COULD be “the seeds of” some kind of actual “bi-partisanship” (in this currently impossible “political climate” for that kind of thing).

        I mean, “imagine that!”: A no-bones-about-it Franklin Delano Roosevelt Hoover Dam Democratic Farmer Labor Party kind of guy, and whatever “political persuasion” you consider yourself closest to, actually (almost) agreeing on at least one or two basic aspects of something as “locally polarizing” as this particular issue.

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