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Rules committee likely to vote Wednesday on major remodel of State Office Building

Opened in 1932, the State Office Building needs significant upgrades.
Opened in 1932, the State Office Building needs significant upgrades.

A comprehensive assessment of the State Office Building has found the structure is outdated, does not meet some current building codes and standards, poses safety hazards and is inadequate for public participation and accessibility, receiving a “poor” rating for the windows, roof, plumbing and HVAC systems.

At the first of two scheduled hearings this week, the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee on Monday heard a presentation on those shortcomings.

When members meet again at 1 p.m. Wednesday, they are expected to vote on a plan that could spend several hundred million dollars to completely refurbish the building where House members and staff have their offices and hold most of their meetings.

Although the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting has not yet been officially announced, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) said the committee will vote on whether the project moves forward.

House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee 12/19/22

He said a 2021 law called for the Department of Administration to present a plan for the building’s major tenant, the House of Representatives, to “sign off on” and the rules committee will then act on behalf of the House.

“What we’re going to do on Wednesday is … look at options for addressing the problems we have seen today, what we can do in the future and what it might cost,” Winkler said.

While he did not say Monday what that cost could be or offer further details, Winkler said it is important to take action now because statutory authority to let the bonds that would pay for the work expires in 2023, and the project would have to be fully designed before the bonds are sold, which typically happens at the end of the summer.

If approved, Winkler said work could begin as soon as next summer and building tenants would likely be displaced for at least one legislative session.

Originally built in 1931, the committee learned the State Office Building was not designed for the Legislature and did not originally include space for public committees or hearings. House members took offices there in 1974 and the last major renovation of the building took place in 1984, when hearing rooms were added.

The building now has workspaces for 134 members, 230 house staff, and is also home to officials and staff with the Secretary of State, Legislative Coordinating Commission, Office of the Revisor of Statutes, Legislative Budget Office and Legislative Reference Library. There are 10 hearing rooms that range in capacity from 50 to 200 people.

Bob Meyerson, former House Sergeant-at-Arms who was a state trooper for 29 years, said the building’s “conflicting mandates” of being open to the public while also providing a secure and functional building poses challenges.

“I have concluded as I’ve spent a lot of time here that the current condition of the Minnesota State Office Building creates vulnerabilities and increasingly threatens the House’s ability to protect the occupants – the public, staff and members and their participation in the democratic process,” Meyerson said.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said he understands the building needs repairs, but is concerned about what the project may cost and said members need to be “good stewards” of tax dollars.

“Knowing that we restored the entire State Capitol for less money than potentially this could cost is alarming, so we’ll be looking forward to seeing those numbers on Wednesday,” Daudt said.

 


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