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Former lawmaker attempts to revive lawsuit challenging office building

Posted by: Abby Simons under Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators Updated: February 24, 2014 - 11:55 AM

Ex-Minnesota State Rep. Jim Knoblach will appeal a Ramsey County Judge’s decision to throw out his lawsuit to block construction of a controversial $90 million legislative office building and parking complex.

Knoblach, a Republican from St. Cloud, sued to stop construction, alleging that the project’s inclusion in the 2013 legislative session tax bill violates state constitutional requirements that “No law shall embrace more than one subject.”

Earlier this month, Judge Lezlie Marek dismissed the lawsuit, reasoning that the building provision is linked to the rest of the massive tax bill by a common thread of “financing and raising revenue to fund state and local government operations.”

Knoblach counters that Marek’s definition of the subject of the bill is overly broad, ignoring parts o the law that are not about financing state and local government.

“The judge’s decision means legislators need only put the magic words “…about the financing and operation of state and local government…” in a bill’s title, and legislators will be free to combine anything they wish in a bill,” Knoblach said in a news release.

 The $63 million building and adjoining $27 million parking facilities drew fire after being included in the tax bill—unusual, for construction projects, which are typically part of the bonding bill and require 60 supermajority to pass. Republicans have been sharply critical of the building’s design and capacity for only 44 Senate offices. Proponents say the building is critical to house lawmakers during and after Capitol renovations.

The building still requires signoff from the House Rules Committee. Its chair, House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said the committee will not make a decision until after a public hearing to discuss other options such as leasing space off the Capitol campus during renovations.

Knoblach said he will ask the Minnesota Supreme Court to bypass the Court of Appeals for an expedited review of the case. If they accept, a ruling could happen before the end of the legislative session, he said. 
 

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