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Sen. Hann wants vote delayed on new office building

MinnPost photo by Briana Biersch
State Sens. Bill Ingebrigtsen, David Hann and Scott Newman speaking during Tuesday's press conference.

Senate Republican Minority Leader David Hann wants Democrats to delay a final vote to approve the construction of a new legislative office building until after a court case contesting the project gets a hearing. 

The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to take a final vote Wednesday authorizing an all-new office building on the north side of the Capitol to house its members. The project will cost a total of $90 million and include new parking spaces near the Capitol complex.

But Hann wants the Senate to push pause, because a lawsuit against the chamber from former state Rep. Jim Knoblach is set to get its first hearing in court next week.

Knoblach is suing the Senate for including the new office building in the tax bill in the final hours of the 2013 session. He says putting a construction project in the tax proposal violates the single-subject rule for bills.

“Instead of rushing a vote to influence the court, we should wait and see if the lawsuit against the project has merit,” Hann said. “The process used to fund this new building has been flawed from the start, and tomorrow’s action will make it worse.”

Hann also used the opportunity to renew criticisms of the project, which he called a “palatial crystal palace across the street.”

New renderings of the project show a modern-looking structure with a wall of glass windows facing the Capitol building. Early plans included a reflecting pool and a fitness center, but those items have been nixed from the final design.

Senators say the new structure will permanently house their members during and after a disruptive renovation of the state Capitol. The project also will include large hearing rooms for the public and parking spaces that will accommodate people with disabilities. 

For their part, Senate Democrats say lawmakers were in talks with the Department of Administration regarding new office space since the start of 2013 and the new office building was added as an amendment to the tax bill in late April, weeks before session ended.

But GOP Sen. Scott Newman said the deal was hatched in the final hours of session and “literally came out of nowhere.”

“My biggest criticism of this is the process, or lack of process,” said Newman, who sits on the Senate Finance Committee and said he didn’t review a stand-alone bill on the project. “It came out of a smoke-filled, back-room deal, and I could not be more critical of those who brought this forward.

The House Rules Committee also will get a vote on the project, but a hearing has yet to be scheduled.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by William Lindeke on 01/14/2014 - 03:05 pm.

    another take on the senate building

    FYI, this excellent column outlines a few other urban design reasons to be skeptical of the proposed building: http://www.streets.mn/2014/01/13/demand-better-urbanism-today-stop-the-new-senate-office-building/#comment-75775

  2. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 01/14/2014 - 05:27 pm.

    Put the Republican senators in the basement of the Capitol

    Before any delay.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/14/2014 - 07:06 pm.

    Thanks for the tip!

    By all means, readers should click on the link provided by William Lindeke. It’s a fine article, and as a former planning commissioner, I found myself nodding my head in agreement at almost every point, especially those concerning the sterile streetscape.

    My main criticisms of the building have been twofold.

    First, if it’s not going to be spacious enough to house ALL the senators and their respective staffs, it ought not to be built at all. Will a lottery be held each December to determine who gets an office (and staff offices) in the new building? Will the majority party get to decide? I can’t think of a better way to engender partisan sniping and resentment than to make office assignments in new vs. old structures on a partisan and/or seniority basis.

    Second, the building’s design is right out of 1975. Glass walls? Seriously? In this climate? Will the architects be paying the resultant huge heating and cooling bills? It’s an energy sink of stupendous proportions, and, as the article points out, it very much has the character of something out of a corporate office park rather than the dignity of a government building.

    What the article Lindeke recommends adds is the issue which is the bane of urban development everywhere: parking. Spending millions for a parking structure that’s right next door to a transit station is disappointingly stupid and shortsighted. Yes, many will drive, but if the city and state governments are serious about encouraging transit use, this is NOT the way to go about it. Cutting back on the size and scope of the parking structure might even make room for enough building expansion to house the entire senate, which is what it ought to do in the first place.

    This might be the only time ever that I’m in agreement with Senator Hann.

  4. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 01/15/2014 - 08:39 am.

    It is nice

    To see the GOP focusing on economic issues instead of our private lives and rights. And given the fact this would screw the unions out of jobs is just icing on the cake.

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