GOP lawmakers try to block Senate office building

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A proposal for a new Senate office building came under fire on Monday from legislature Republicans.

The GOP lawmakers claim the structure is unnecessary and a waste of money while Democrats insist the building is needed, as many Senate offices are located in the Capitol itself.

The Capitol is currently undergoing a major renovation, and Democrats also said that the remodeling will force the offices to be relocated.

"The building, in short, is not needed," said Sen. Roger Chamberlain, a Lino Lakes Republican. "It is unconstitutional. People do not want it. It is just an extravagant waste of money for politicians."

Republicans have argued that the amendment to the tax bill, approving the building in the last session of the legislature was unconstitutional. That argument is before the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Republicans and Democrats do not even agree on the cost of the building. GOPer's contend it is $90 million, while Democrats say it is only $63 million. Democrats also say the building will house 44 senate offices from both parties.

Presently, the majority party gets the desired offices inside the Capitol. Democrats intend to end that practice and base the office assignments on seniority, as it is done in the nation's Capitol.

The bill to construct the new building has already passed the Senate, but has not gone through the House. House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, a St. Paul Democrat, issued a written statement Monday.

"The renovation of the State Capitol has garnered bi-partisan support and both Democrats and Republicans have been involved in this process from the beginning. It is unfortunate that rather than continue to work together on this issue Republicans have chosen to make political attacks."

The new building is believed to be a campaign issue for Republicans and the introduction of the bills on Monday is too late to go to the normal committee process. The deadline for submitting bills to committees was March 21.

The House and Senate majority Democrats could decide to break the rules and allow the bills into committee, but that is considered unlikely.

The new Senate office building would be located directly behind the Capitol on a space that now serves as a surface parking lot. There is concern that the argument over the building could force a costly delay in the long-delayed renovations of the 109-year-old State Capitol.


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