ST. PAUL – Maybe it is just plain fitting that changes in state law appear necessary before events can take place to fully celebrate the grand reopening of Minnesota's state Capitol next year.
In any case, legislation (S.F. 2850) which earlier passed the Senate without opposition overwhelmingly cleared the House on Thursday, moving closer to ensuring the public can share in the festivities once the curtains are pulled back on a massive three-year, $300 million-plus restoration renovation of the Capitol in St. Paul.
"The issue that arose is state law needs clarification to make certain that fundraisers can take place to raise and expend money for the reopening events," said Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, who authored the House version of the bill. "The Capitol is the people's house and the people deserve a chance to be part of the celebration when the restoration of this state icon is unveiled."
The Capitol project is on pace to be approximately 90 percent finished by the time the Legislature convenes for the 2017 session in January. A "Welcome back to the Capitol Event" is set to take place then. A larger, more formal, public grand reopening celebration is set to take place when the project is complete in the fall of 2017.
Urdahl said the goal is for fundraisers to generate at least $400,000 for the events. A grand reopening committee of 21 members will be formed to spearhead the fundraising. The group is likely to be made up of community and business partners and it would report to the Capitol Preservation Commission, of which Urdahl is a member.
"This project was 30 years in the making, so the fact we can see the finish line is reason itself to celebrate," Urdahl said. "The fact we are restoring the Capitol to its full glory should be a source of pride for our state and the day they open the doors so Minnesotans can enjoy it once again will be special."
The project is being conducted mainly to repair a crumbling exterior, address life safety concerns, update mechanical systems and make the building more user-friendly to the public.
Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, is the chief Senate author of the legislation, which is now in the hands of Gov. Mark Dayton for his action.