The new state office building that's been the subject of political attacks for several years, and fodder for campaign hit pieces in 2014, is finally open for business.
The Minnesota Senate Building on University Avenue, directly north of the Capitol, hosted several legislative hearings at the end of last week. DFL senators and their staff were mostly moved in as of Monday, as well as nonpartisan Senate offices including the Senate Sergeant.
With Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk as its chief legislative proponent, lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton approved $90 million for the building project at the end of the 2013 session, a decision that still reverberates politically.
"It's always harder to do construction projects in the public eye," Bakk said Monday, sitting in his new, third-floor corner office that looks toward the rear of the Capitol. But he said the new facility would be much more effective at accomodating the public. It features larger hearing rooms, and greatly improved accessibility to people with disabilities.
Republicans relentessly criticized Democrats for OKing $90 million in state funds for the project. So far, Republican senators have refused to move into space that was earmarked for them in the new building.
With the Capitol in the midst of a massive renovation project, the new building is home to a temporary chamber that will be home to the Senate in the upcoming legislative session.
Bakk said the new building was necessary or "the Capitol would have been a Senate office building for another hundred years."
Previously, much of the Capitol itself was given over to office space for senators and their employees; the new building has allowed for a vast expansion of public space in the Capitol, and will mean additional space for the governor and House of Representatives.