Monday, March 31, 2014

Part of the problem

Proposed Senate Legislative Office Buiding (architect's rendering)

Republicans have been having a field day over the proposed $90 million Senate Legislative Office Building (or SLOB, even better than the acronym for the current State Office Building, SOB). The edifice was, apparently legally, slipped into a tax bill at the very end of the 2013 session without a single hearing in the House. The SLOB was not funded in the tax bill just signed by Gov. Dayton, but that funding could still come with a vote by the House Rules Committee. Meanwhile, HF 2800 and SF 2808 have been introduced to repeal the construction authority for the building.

With some DFL legislators and even Gov. Dayton expressing concerns over the price tag and some of the proposed building's amenities, the building and the way it was rushed through the process has been red meat for partisan Republicans. 

All six Republican gubernatorial endorsement candidates publicly expressed their opposition to the building, instead advocating for the Capitol Preservation Commission proposal for temporary facilities during the restoration and then moving the senators back into the Capitol. 

The House GOP Caucus has focused attention on Gov. Dayton, pointing out that the Governor's office would receive a 62% more office space than their current Capitol digs. (Seriously??)

Yet the Legislature is pressed for enough office and hearing room space to conduct business and enable citizen participation, even before renovations soon require some senators to vacate their Capitol offices. According to former state Rep. Jim Knoblach in a StarTribune op ed, sensible solutions could exist in unused or rearranged spaces in the SOB. So why buy new when slightly used will do?

The "extravagant" amenities and architecture of the current SLOB proposal are only part of the problem. Let's hope that the building's critics will be part of the solution.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Home opener

Ryan Rutzick (campaign photo)
Ryan Rutzick
With the rolling back of the tarps to reveal the grassroots of the Minnesota political parties at the precinct caucuses, we named our starting lineups (precinct officers and delegates to the BPOU convention) and debated party platform planks. Last Saturday at Wayzata High School, Senate District 44 Republicans met at their convention to endorse candidates, elect delegates to the Third Congressional District and state conventions, and generally perpetuate the American experiment of self-government.

Delegates endorsed incumbent HD44A Rep. Sarah Anderson for reelection, while small business owner Ryan Rutzick won the endorsement for the open seat in HD44B. Anderson is the well-loved and respected, hard-working four-term representative from Plymouth. Newcomer Rutzick introduced himself and his family with enthusiasm and a commanding public presence. He seems to have the energy, determination, and communication skills to connect with voters and finish the campaign season marathon that will begin in earnest after the legislature adjourns sine die in April or so.

Meanwhile, Kelsey Johnson (@kelsaljohnson) reported via Twitter that our counterparts in the DFL apparently adjourned their convention without endorsing any of the three candidates vying to succeed the retiring Rep. John Benson in HD44B. Johnson also reported that the Dems endorsed Audrey Britton to again challenge Sarah Anderson in HD44A.

I am happy to report that my Plymouth precinct had a full delegation present, but not so happy to report that none of our fellow House District 44B precincts did. Many candidates for Congressional district and state convention delegate from "the B side" revealed their support for Jeff Johnson for governor, while others said they were undecided. (The Johnson campaign was the only campaign to circulate a "slate," which is a list of delegates pledged to endorse him at the state convention.) Most delegate candidates seemed to be still vetting the U.S. Senate candidates, but most who mentioned a name said they were supporting or "leaning toward" fourth-term Minnesota Sen. Julianne Ortman (SD47). Sen. Ortman mingled with delegates Saturday morning as they registered for the convention, grabbed a Caribou coffee and a doughnut, and made their way to their seats.

The ever-present Rep. Erik Paulsen (CD3) greeted delegates as usual — it seems he never misses an SD44 convention, and like his predecessor Jim Ramstad, is always accompanied by his orange-shirted campaign staff. Paulsen will stand for his endorsement vote at the Third Congressional District Convention on Saturday, March 29, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. at Maple Grove Senior High School.