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.

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