The Minnesota Supreme Court has denied a last-ditch appeal from a former state lawmaker trying to block construction of a new state Senate office building across the street from the Capitol, meaning construction of the controversial taxpayer-funded project could get underway soon.
The high court on Thursday refused to overturn a Court of Appeals ruling which held that Jim Knoblach was required to post an $11 million surety bond in order for his lawsuit to proceed. The state had asked for the bond as a financial cushion in the event Knoblach's lawsuit were to cause construction delays on the $90 million project, $77 million of which will be covered by taxpayers.
Knoblach's attorney, Erick Kaardal, said after the ruling that it meant an end to Knoblach's legal efforts to stop the building's construction. "We're disapppointed," Kaardal said. Knoblach said last week he did not have the money to post an $11 million bond.
The office building will include offices for all 67 state senators, with state officials arguing it needs to be built quickly to house the lawmakers when they're displaced from the Capitol during its ongoing renovation. But Knoblach, a former Republican House member from St. Cloud, has criticized it as wasteful and unnecessary. He tried to argue in his lawsuit that the Legislature violated the state Constitution by including most of the construction funds in a tax bill, rather than a bonding bill.
But the Court of Appeals ruled that Knoblach had to post the bond in order to keep pursuing his case, and the Supreme Court refused to reverse that. The high court's brief order was signed by Chief Justice Lorie Gildea.
Officials had been constrained from issuing construction bonds while the lawsuit was still alive. A Department of Administration spokesman said Thursday that the agency planned to proceed immediately with construction plans, but that a hoped-for July 1 groundbreaking may no longer be possible. Earlier timelines estimated construction would take 16-17 months.
Republicans have been heavily critical of DFL lawmakers for voting to approve the building, and vowed to try to make it an issue in fall elections for control of the state House.