Senate Republicans and their staff will be locked out of a Capitol parking ramp starting Saturday, the latest flash point between the GOP caucus and Senate Democrats who have traded jabs over the new Minnesota Senate Building.
A GOP Senate spokesman confirmed that the decision was communicated to them this week and said it came at the direction of Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.
Senate Republicans have sparred with their DFL counterparts over the new Senate Building, a $90-million building that opened last month. They have chosen to spurn the new building, for now staying put in their current State Office Building space, where some also park in an access-controlled ramp.
Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, called it retribution by Bakk for their decision to stay put in their current offices. Hann said his caucus wanted to avoid a disruptive and costly move from their current offices to the new building for a short legislative session. They plan to move after the election, Hann said.
"My sense is that this was a political step because the majority is mad at us that we elected not to move," Hann said. "This is a way to make our lives more difficult."
Senate DFL spokeswoman Alyssa Siems Roberson said Senate Republicans' refusal to move their offices and use parking spaces in the new building is creating logistical problems. She said that under a lease agreement with the Department of Administration, plans included moving all of the Senate and their staff into the Minnesota Senate Building (MSB). The move would free up parking space that would be available to the public.
Siems Roberson said Bakk was unavailable for comment.
"Republicans refusing to join their Democratic colleagues in the building does not change the terms of this lease," Siems Roberson said in a statement. "Our goal is, and always has been, increasing access to the public on the legislative process, and turning over parking back to the Department of Administration will have that effect."
Hann said his caucus members and staff were informed of new parking guidelines this week. Senators are being directed, he said, to park in the Minnesota Senate Building where parking costs about $150 per month compared with $75 currently. Senators will not be allowed to park on surface lots, he said, noting that many members of his caucus currently do so at about $30 per monthly.
Hann said staffers will be most affected. "What is of concern is when they attack the public employees," he said. "In this case, trying to make the lives of our staff more inconvenient. It's so petty."
Siems Roberson noted that staff parking in the new building will be subsidized, costing $75. Senators will pay the full rate of about $150 a month in the new building.
Republicans have also decried the use of Senate funds to defray the parking subsidy for staff, arguing that DFLers had originally promised the ramp would be paid for entirely through user fees.