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Judge tosses out Senate office building lawsuit

Posted by: under Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators Updated: February 7, 2014 - 3:03 PM

A Ramsey County judge has dismissed a legal challenge to the construction of new quarters for the Minnesota Senate.

Last session, the Legislature signed off on a $90 million plan to build a new Senate office building and parking structures across the street from the State Capitol.

Former Republican state Rep. Jim Knoblach of St. Cloud filed suit to block the project, arguing that it was wasteful and unnecessary. More importantly, he said, by slipping funding for the project into a massive tax bill in the final hours of the 2013 session, the Senate violated the state's single-subject rule, which states that "no law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title."

But Judge Lezlie Marek rejected that argument, writing in her order of dismissal that the legislation did not violate the single subject requirement. The $2 billion tax bill was a sprawling piece of legislation, but Marek ruled that the office building provision is linked to the rest by a common thread of "financing and raising revenue to fund state and local government operations."

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, welcomed the dismissal.

"Today's news is an important step forward for the legislative building project as well as the renovation of the Capitol," Bakk said in a statement. "I look forward to both projects proceeding without further delay."

The project now moves to the House Rules committee, which must sign off on the building design. The Senate rules committee approved the project last month, over Republican objections.

Right now, state Senators have offices in the Capitol itself or in the nearby State Office Building, which also houses the offices of state Representatives. With the Capitol under renovation for the next three years, senators argued that the time was right to move to their own space.

Some of the early designs for the $63 million building -- including reflecting pools and a Senate gymnasium -- raised eyebrows and sparked calls from Gov. Mark Dayton and House Democrats to scale the project back.

Order of Dismissal

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