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Legal Fight Over Senate Building Takes New Turn

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A legal fight threatening to postpone construction of a new building for Minnesota state senators took a new turn Tuesday, keeping the project in a holding pattern.

A former state lawmaker suing to block the building failed to meet a deadline for posting an $11 million surety bond. That bond would protect taxpayers from financial losses if ex-Rep. Jim Knoblach doesn’t prevail and delays mount. The Court of Appeals ruled last week that it would dismiss the case without such financial guarantee.

Knoblach’s attorney, Erick Kaardal, told The Associated Press that he will file a formal appeal with the state Supreme Court on Wednesday. Kaardal said he sent a letter to the courts last week advising judges of the refusal to post a bond.

“Charging Mr. Knoblach 10 percent cost of the building was an abuse of discretion and was unfair and that needs to be reversed,” Kaardal said.

Officials hope to break ground in July across from the Capitol. The building is projected to cost $90 million, with taxpayers covering all but $13 million.

The lawsuit is the last barrier to construction. State officials are hesitant to move ahead with the building until it is resolved.

Knoblach, a St. Cloud Republican, has argued the process for approving the building was illegal because it was part of a bill requiring a simple majority not a supermajority like other construction projections.

He was appealing a lower-court defeat when appeals judges ordered him to put up the bond if the case was to move forward. In court papers, state officials have argued that even small delays could prove costly because they would be required to find and outfit temporary space for lawmakers displaced by an ongoing Capitol renovation.

No matter how the case turns out the building is sure to be a political flashpoint this fall.

Republicans say it is a perfect symbol of misplaced Democratic priorities and reason to put the GOP in control of the state House and governor’s office after November’s election.

Democrats who have defended construction say moving senators to a new building will open up more space in the Capitol to the public. They say the project dovetails with the $272 million Capitol makeover.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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