(This post has been updated)
When the newly renovated and remodeled Minnesota Capitol debuts in early 2017, it will feature what planners are describing as a major boost in the amount of space and facilities that are open and available to the public.
That includes a third-floor "Cass Gilbert Library," named after the building's original architect, that will be illuminated by a series of newly recovered, original skylights that have been boarded up for decades. Also new to the Capitol will be a public information center, an increase in the number of bathrooms and elevators, two reservable public dining rooms and a couple of public classrooms, and a room for mothers of young children.
"This is going to be some really fantastic public and available space that will restore a lot of the 1905 original architecture," Matt Massman, commissioner of the Department of Administration, said Thursday at a meeting of the Capitol Preservation Commission, a panel led by Gov. Mark Dayton that's overseeing the $273 million renovation project. The Capitol originally opened to the public in 1905.
Dayton and the panel of lawmakers signed off on a "space allocation agreement" at the Thursday meeting, after several weeks of negotiation between Gov. Mark Dayton, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and House Speaker Kurt Daudt. By striking a deal late Wednesday and making it official Thursday, the elected leaders just avoided what construction managers warned would have been costly delays if the space negotiations had continued to drag on.
The final deal left the Senate with considerably less space in the remade Capitol, both compared to before the renovation and to what Bakk had originally sought. Pre-renovation, a total of 39 state senators had offices in the Capitol; Bakk said he had sought 23 senator offices after the construction, but in the end he settled for four.
That leaves 63 senators who will have offices in a new Senate office building that's currently under construction north of the Capitol. That project has been politically controversial, but Bakk said it created the space that's needed to create more public space in the remade Capitol, and to give more room in the big building for the governor's office and the House.
"The Capitol would permanently be a Senate office building if it weren't for that project across the street," Bakk said.
The four Senate offices that remain in the Capitol will likely go to the majority and minority leaders, and likely two top committee chairs. Bakk stressed that no state senator would have more than one office. Rep. Paul Torkelson, a House Republican on the preservation panel, said no House members would have permanent office space in the new Capitol. House members all have offices in another adjacent building, the uncreatively named State Office Building.
The governor's office is gaining about 7,000 square feet of space in the renovated Capitol, while the House will gain about 2,700 square feet of additional space. The Senate is surrendering nearly 43,000 square feet of space.
In recent months, the premier building of Minnesota government has been rung by scaffolding and wrapped in sheets of white canvas as work crews execute the renovation. Major portions of the building are currently closed off to lawmakers and the public alike even as the 2015 session has gotten underway. The renovation project is scheduled to be finished up in time for the 2017 legislative session.
As many as 130,000 Minnesota families could receive state help to reduce the cost of child care and dependent care for the elderly under a proposal by Gov. Mark Dayton unveiled Tuesday.
Dayton, the two-term DFL governor, said the initiative would provide direct tax relief that could reduce the cost of child care and dependent care for working families.
"Rising childcare costs have put hard financial strains on many Minnesota families, making it increasingly difficult for working parents to hold their jobs while assuring quality care for their children," Dayton said in a statement. "My Child Care Tax Credit helps to provide Minnesota families with options -- so they don't have to choose between working and caring for their families."
The proposal would provide about $100 million direct tax relief. Under Dayton's plan, the average family would receive $481; the maximum benefit would be $2,100 for eligibile families.
Photo: Gov. Mark Dayton gives his inaugural address earlier this month at the Landmark Center in St. Paul. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune)
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)