Gov. Mark Dayton, leading the State Capitol Preservation Commission, said earlier today that he and legislative leaders have been unable to come to a final agreement on how to allocate space in the newly renovated Capitol.
A final agreement on how space will be used is required before the next phase of the $272 million project can be approved by the commission and commence. Without an agreement, the builder won't know how to proceed.
Dayton said he and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and House Speaker Kurt Daudt have been in intense negotiations in recent days and have made significant progress. The House changed hands and became Republican after the November election, scuttling an earlier tentative agreement.
The delay will begin to increase project costs soon, eventually to the tune of $680,000 per month. Commission members were also told a slowdown could create other difficulties, such as a shortage of skilled workers, who may want to bolt given the region's booming construction market.
Also, bids have been approved and contracts are ready to be signed, but they will expire on Jan. 31. A new bidding process could cost even more due to rising construction costs.
The commission agreed to meet next week. Dayton said he hopes an agreement will be reached by then.
Post modified to reflect that delay will begin to affect costs "soon" rather than "immediately." Project officials told Dayton that an agreement by next week's meeting won't add to costs.
From left, Judie Fos speaks to Gov. Mark Dayton as Suzanne Edwards, Mary Gross and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith prepare to have their photo taken on Saturday night at the North Star Ball at St. Paul's Union Depot. More photos by Aaron Lavinsky can be found here.
Gov. Mark Dayton, dressed casually in jeans and a shirt with sleeves rolled up, thanked his supporters in very brief remarks at his inaugural ball Saturday night at the newly renovated Union Depot in downtown St. Paul.
He said that in deference to the event's sponsors he wanted to keep it nonpartisan and non-political, so, "That doesn't give me much to talk about," he said.
Dayton reflected wistfully and briefly on his three decades of public life and thanked long time supporters.
"It means so much to me that you're here," he said, before introducing new Lt. Gov. Tina Smith.
Rep. Erin Murphy sought to get the crowd enthused: "Do you feel mighty?" she said to cheers.
The several hundred gathered to celebrate the Dayton victory, who paid $25 for tickets ($15 for students) got warmed up with a DJ, cash bar and finger food.
State Auditor Rebecca Otto, Secretary of State Steve Simon and a handful of legislators, cabinet members and other politicos were in attendance.
Gail and Joel Roberts, who live in Mendota Heights but raised their three boys in St. Paul, said they were there to celebrate the governor's victory. The retired math professor and early chlidhood educator said they appreciated Dayton's commitment to education.
"It has the feel of the people's inaugural," Gail Roberts said.
The crowd's attire ranged from jeans to a stylish white dinner jacket worn by Kader Toovi, who was celebrating after working on the campaign of Sen. Al Franken. His date Toni Ojoyeyi wore a subtly sparkly dress.
The Governor's Inaugural Committee is what's known as a 527 organization, which refers to an IRS term. It will report its contributions and expenses by July 31, 2015.
Major sponsors included Pentair, Delta, AFSCME, the laborers union, 3M, Cargill, CenterPoint Energy, Enbridge, Thomson Reuters, and the law firms of Faegre Baker Daniels and Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi.
Senate Democrats' first six bills of the session will address a skilled worker shortage, reform the child protection system and expand early childhood education, among other priorities, DFL lawmakers said Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk in a news conference stopped short of calling the bills top priorities but said they were important. Notably absent Thursday was a bill on transportation, an issue that is shaping up to be a legislative priority for the Gov. Mark Dayton, DFLers and Republicans alike.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, is crafting that bill and said it would likely be introduced early next week.
The six bills are:
-- An appropriation of $6.85 million for disaster relief from last summer's storms that heavily damaged dozens of counties in Minnesota. It would also provide an additional $3 million so local governments can receive matching funds for roads. An additional $2.4 million would be provided for erosion, sediment and water control to benefit farmers. The bill sponsor is Sen. Vicki Jensen, DFL-Owatonna.
-- Free two-year tuition at at Minnesota state community or technical college for new high school graduates. The bill sponsor Sen. Leroy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, said the bill would help reduce student-loan debt and provide employers skilled workers.
-- In a nod to the rural parts of the state, the third bill would expand the state's loan-forgiveness program for health professionals. Under the program, participating health care professionals who serve up to four years in a rural area would have some of their college debt forgiven. The bill sponsor is Sen. Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley.
-- Following the Star Tribune's reporting on the death of Eric Dean, a 4-year-old who died in the care of a county child-protection agency, lawmakers want to propose reforms to current practices. The bill would require reports to be maintained for five years, not one, and also require increased reviews to improve oversight of the child-protection system. The bill sponsor is Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato.
-- DFLer's fourth bill would allow high school students to take vocational training in return for academic credit. It would include a partnership with local employers interested in providing training opportunities to students. The bill sponsor is Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka.
-- Lastly, Senate Democrats want to expand access to early childhood education, also a priority Gov. Dayton plans to pursue. The bill would allow every four-year-old in the state attend pre-school for free and would go into effect in fall 2016. The bill sponsor is Sen. John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin.
Photo: Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk on Thursday unveiled DFLers first six bills of the session. (Ricardo Lopez/Star Tribune)
A former state commissioner of employment and economic development will return to the Cabinet of Gov. Mark Dayton to lead the state agency that's charged with diversifying and improving the economy of Minnesota's Iron Range.
Mark Phillips was commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development in 2011 and 2012. He has previous experience with the agency he'll now lead, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB), having served as its director of economic development from 1983 to 1988. He is currently director of business development at Kraus-Anderson Construction Company.
"The people and businesses of the Iron Range will be well served by Mark's extensive public and private economic development experience," Dayton said in a press release. "I appreciate Mark's willingness to serve Minnesota again."
The IRRRB provides low or no interest loans, grants and loan guarantees for businesses relocating or expanding in northeastern Minnesota's Iron Range. It also distributes grants to local governments, schools and nonprofits in the area. It's primarily funded by a taconite tax paid by mining companies in lieu of property taxes. Its board is comprised of state senators and representatives from the region.
Phillips replaces Dayton's first-term IRRRB commissioner, Tony Sertich, a former state House majority leader who left the administration to lead the Duluth-based Northland Foundation.
The chief information officer for the state of Minnesota is resigning her post, and the Dayton administration said Tuesday it would accept applications for the job.
Carolyn Parnell is the state's chief information officer and commissioner of MN.IT, the agency that manages the technology systems for over 70 agencies, boards and commissions within the executive branch of government. Under her watch, the state consolidated much of its technology infrastructure.
"This consolidation improved agencies' efficiencies and saved Minnesota taxpayers nearly $28 million," Dayton said in a news release.
Prior to joining Dayton's administration in 2011, Parnell had led technology offices at a number of Twin Cities-based organizations and businesses including MnSCU. Dayton's office said applicants interested in the job could submit a resume.