A Minnesota Senate committee on Wednesday approved plans to move forward with the design and planning of a $90 million legislative office building, despite opposition by Republican leadership who claimed they were never informed of the project’s close ties to the $272 million restoration of the State Capitol.
The Minnesota Senate Rules and Administration Committee approved the measure by a 7-5 party line vote over protests from Senate Republican leadership, who maintained that more public hearings should have taken place. The building was funded as part of a $2.1 billion tax bill that passed the Legislature last session. Language in that Tax Bill requires the Senate and House Rules committees to approve the final design.
The $63 million building, which will be located north of the Capitol across University Avenue with an adjoining $27 million parking facilities one block west, is designed to hold 44 offices and three hearing rooms. Minnesota’s 67 state senators currently have offices in the Capitol and the nearby State Office Building, which also houses state representatives.
Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, moved to take the vote to a different and then to delay it pending a court hearing challenging the project, measures that both failed.
“All I can do is express my frustration that this is the first time I’m aware of that there has been any kind of public hearing, and the public has had no input to weigh in on this at all,” Newman said. “This, to me, has just been an ugly, ugly process.”
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said that because of the office space necessary to house everyone, the building is closely linked with the Capitol. As the Capitol is redesigned, 23,000 feet must be cordoned off for health and safety issues, while the Governor and House also want more space.
“There’s been a number of stakeholders involved in hat this new renovation would encompass,” Bakk said. “The final plan of what the Capitol is going to look like is totally contingent on this new building.”
The vote goes next to the House Rules Committee, who also must sign off on the plan before it moves forward.