The final hour of the last day of the legislative session in the Minnesota Senate was one for the history books. As first reported by J. Patrick Coolican of the Star Tribune, the Minnesota Senate approved spending $7.2 million for an underground parking garage with 30 spaces at the Minnesota State Capitol.
$240,000 parking spaces would be some of the most expensive parking spots in Minnesota and it is unlikely the parking garage will ever be built.
Last week, the Star Tribune Editorial Board added more commentary on the issue:
Security in and around the State Capitol is a sober subject. Aesthetics in and around Cass Gilbert’s masterpiece matter, too, since it symbolizes much that Minnesotans value.
But we couldn’t help chortling at news that the brand-new bonding bill that appeared, then faltered in the regular legislative session’s final hour included a $7.2 million, 30-space underground Capitol parking garage. Its legislative patron was none other than Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk.
Bakk, DFL-Cook, is the very fellow who, in the final weeks of the 2013 legislative session, engineered an unusual and — at the time — little-noticed tax bill provision to authorize construction of a new Senate office building. Criticism of that less-than-transparent move became a standard talking point for Republican candidates in 2014 as the GOP wrested control of the state House from the DFL.
In the flurry of the final hour of the session, Senator Dave Thompson (GOP-Lakeville) stood at his desk in the Minnesota Senate, looked at his watch, and noted only 54 minutes were left before the deadline for legislators to complete their work.
Thompson said passing legislation with such speed and little transparency was "not fair to the [members of the Minnesota Senate], not fair to the public."
The issues raised by Thompson were largely ignored by his colleagues in the Minnesota Senate.
The Star Tribune Editorial Board echoed the concerns raised by Thompson, stating Minnesotans are "increasingly irritated by the habit of opaque lawmaking in the final rush of a legislative session."
While Thompson acknlowdged in an interview that "both parties are guilty" of rushing bills through the legislative session in the final minutes, he said "legislative leaders benefit from speeding up the process and avoiding scrutiny." Thompson added, "the only way things will change is if individual legislators take a stand and simply refuse to vote 'yes' on bills that are presented without time to evaluate them."
Picture source: Minnesota Senate Media Services