Minnesota's Management and Budget office announced Tuesday that it completed a $85.4 million bond sale to fund construction of a new office building for state senators next to the Capitol.
The state Department of Administration announced shortly after that preliminary work would start at the site on Wednesday. That could include asphalt, tree and curb removal; installation of barriers, fences and partitions; and heavy equipment delivery.
Plans call for the building to be ready for senators to move in prior to the 2016 legislative session. Planners of the roughly $90 million project, to which taxpayers are contributing about $77 million, say it will both ease crowding concerns during the ongoing, massive renovation of the Capitol building; and provide needed long-term space for state senators and their employees.
The project has become a frequent target of criticism by Republican politicians, who have called it unneeded, and tried to wield it politically against Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative Democrats.
The head of the one of the most powerful Democratic groups in Minnesota will move to one of the most powerful unions in the state.
Carrie Lucking, who has been executive director of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota since 2011, will become Education Minnesota's director of policy, research and outreach.
"I absolutely loved it here and it was a really difficult decision to go," Lucking, a former teacher, said.
But both the Alliance and Education Minnesota have been heavily involved in politics -- and each other. Education Minnesota spent nearly $5 million on political causes since 2008.
The Alliance, which has spent more than $10 million since 2007, has supported Democrats in their election quests. The Alliances' funders received much of their money from Education Minnesota and other unions, the Democratic Governor's Association and Alida Messinger, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's ex-wife.
Since 2010 Education Minnesota has given at least $660,000 to Alliance's funders and Messinger has donated more than $2 million.
But Lucking said her new job, which will start in September, will not be directly involved in politics and political spending.
"I’ve been living and dying by the election cycling for ten years," she said. "It turns out that’s a long time."
Lucking said the Alliance will be bringing on an extra set of hands to help out during the election and naming a new interim director soon.
Lucking is married to Bob Hume, Gov. Mark Dayton's communications chief.
She said getting distance between their two jobs -- hers at the Alliance in independent political spending -- and his working for a governor the Alliance supports was not one of her considerations in taking the new job.
At home, the couple, who had their first child this year, largely talks about the things all new parents discuss, she said -- food, the baby's inputs and outputs and other domestic affairs.
Updated with contributions from Glenn Howatt
Minnesota Democratic party groups continue to dominate the cash contests, raising more, spending more and having more cash-on-hand than Republican party groups, according to pre-primary fundraising reports released Tuesday.
But the Minnesota Republican party groups are catching up. After years of whittling down debt, the state party now has $435,000 in debt remaining in its state committee, which is nearly $100,000 less than it owned at the end of May.
By comparison, however, Democrats still have a clear edge in the money race.
The DFL state party has raised more than $2 million, with help from the DFL House and Senate caucuses. The Republican state party has raised about half that. The state DFL party has also spent about $600,000 more than the Republicans and has a little less than twice the GOP's cash on hand, with no major debt.
The Democratic edge in the House party committees is even more stark.
For the Republican and Democratic battle for control of the House in this election, the DFL House committee has amassed almost three times what the Republican House campaign committee has in fundraising. The DFL campaign arm has about twice as much cash on hand as the Republicans' and has spent about twice more than the Republican rival committee.
Dig into all the numbers below:
Legislators are picking sides in the Republican governor's race.
On Wednesday both Republicans Marty Seifert, a former House minority leader from Marshall, and Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner released lists of lawmakers who have their backs.
Former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who currently represents Maple Grove in the House, announced a list of current and former lawmakers in his corner two weeks ago. The three will face off against each other and businessman Scott Honour, the only one of the quartet who has not served in the Legislature, in an August primary.
Johnson's list of lawmaker-supporters is the longest, which stands to reason because he is the Republican Party's endorsed candidate for governor. Partisans are encouraged to back the candidate the party backs.
Supporters released by the Johnson campaign on Wednesday:
Former Republican legislators endorsing Johnson include:
Supporters released by the Seifert campaign on Wednesday:
Seifert's campaign said more lawmaker support is coming.
"Marty Seifert’s campaign for governor has locally announced several legislative endorsements from current and former legislators over the last week and will continue to do so for the next 10 days," it said in a news release.
Honour, who has not released a list of his legislative supporters, took a whack at his rivals through his campaign's Twitter account.
Photo: Minnesota Capitol/Source: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
Updates: The word "pressured" regarding the expectation that partisan support party-backed candidate has been changed to "encouraged."
The HonourHousley tweet has also been added.
On Tuesday, a day after DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said he was unsure whether the MNsure health insurance rates should be released before the election, the governor asked his commerce commissioner to attempt an earlier release.
"Making the rate information public before open enrollment begins would provide families and businesses additional time and information to help them make informed decision," Dayton said in a letter to MNsure's legislative committee.
The timing of the rate release has long been a political football.
Republicans have hammered the administration to release the 2015 health insurance rates before the November election, saying they believe consumer costs will like rise. Waiting until Nov. 15, when open enrollment begins and several weeks after voters will decide whether to re-elect Dayton and legislative DFLers, amounts to a political "cover up," they've said.
On Monday, Dayton appeared to resist calls for an earlier release.
"I think they are going to be so badly distorted for political purposes that I don't think they will shed any light for consumers," the governor said in answering reporter questions about the release schedule.
But by Tuesday, the date the MNsure's bipartisan legislative oversight panel is scheduled to discuss an earlier release, Dayton had decided an earlier release would be beneficial.
In his letter to the committee, the governor said he would like Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman to request the state's health plans to agree to release rates around Oct. 1. That would give consumers about 45 days before open enrollment begins and put the 2014 release on roughly the same schedule as the 2013 release.
Here's Dayton's letter:
Photo: Star Tribune file photo
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