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The Capitol Note: Senate building plan headed for House committee later this month

DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk warned of "tens of millions" in additional costs. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher.)

DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk warned of “tens of millions” in additional costs. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher.)

1.) The debate on funding the new Senate office building seems unsettled, but the project’s manager is warning decision-makers that pushing the issue back could lead to cost overruns on State Capitol construction, according to Minnesota Public Radio. Department of Administration staffer Wayne Waslaski told the Capitol Preservation Commission that delaying construction of the $90 million complex — which includes two parking facilities as well as the new office building — could lead to unnecessary expenses, but could not spell out what that scenario would cost. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk predicted that failing to approve the Senate building on time would lead to “tens of millions of dollars of cost overruns” in the Capitol renovation, as accommodations would need to be made to house the Senate members who are now scheduled to move to the new building. House Majority Leader Erin Murphy said she plans to hold an informational House Rules Committee hearing in late February, but did not say when that committee would vote on the proposal.

2.)  Full financial details for Minnesota’s candidates for congressional office are out, and the disclosure forms reveal few surprises in any of the state’s competitive races, the Star Tribune reports. The lone holdout in the GOP U.S. Senate field, Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, trails in fundraising among the four top-tier candidates for that race, with $87,000 raised and about $27,000 cash on hand. In that race and the congressional contests, each of the incumbents held a decisive advantage in money raised and available, with one exception: DFL U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan raised $563,000 during last year, and has $298,000 cash-on-hand. His lone opponent, Republican business executive Stewart Mills, collected about $449,000 but spent relatively lightly, and had $306,000 at the start of this year.

3.) Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, told the Rochester Post-Bulletin that Tina Smith should step down as chair of the Destination Medical Center Corporation (DMCC), saying her new role as running mate for Gov. Mark Dayton is too partisan a position for her to faithfully lead that board. At the time of Dayton’s announcement, Smith, formerly his chief of staff, said she had no intention of stepping down from the panel tasked with guiding the expenditure of up to $585 million toward infrastructure upgrades. Davids warned that Smith’s presence on the DMCC during a gubernatorial campaign could ultimately turn the small committee into a “partisan caucus.” Smith’s decision to stay on as chair is evidently supported by her fellow members, including Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede, who said she had done a “heck of a job” in getting the legislation passed.


  • Gov. Mark Dayton‘s hip surgery on Monday went according to plan, the Associated Press reports, and Dayton will spend the next few days convalescing at Mayo Clinic in Rochester before returning to the Twin Cities. Dayton’s travel will be limited for up to three months, during which time he will wear a brace to help with his movement as he recovers.
  • Today at 5:00 p.m. marks the registration deadline for an upcoming womenwinning event featuring Ana Marie Cox, political columnist for the Guardian U.S. Cox will speak at the “Wine, Chocolate and Choice” fundraiser at the Varsity Theater at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. Donation levels range from the $35 “young professional” level up to $300, which includes a private reception with Cox; more details here.
  • Waconia Mayor Jim Nash has announced his intentions to run for the House District 47A seat held by Rep. Ernie Leidiger, who said last week that he would not run for re-election in his heavily GOP-leaning district. Nash, a Republican activist and owner of a technology analysis firm, becomes the second Republican entrant in that race, joining businessman and creation science exponent Robert Frey.
  • The Senate Republican caucus hired Katie Fulkerson as its new press secretary, replacing the departed Luke Hellier. Fulkerson has a background in marketing, and has worked in brand management for Red Bull, Microsoft and Adobe, among other companies.
  • Attorney and GOP activist Zander Abrams has been tapped to serve as political director for Kurt Zellers‘ gubernatorial campaign. Abrams, a former intern at the state House of Representatives, has served as a delegate to the Republican Party of Minnesota convention several times. In his new role, he will be in charge of outreach and will lend a hand in Zellers’ fundraising efforts.

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