Minnesota legislators made these last-minute additions to the state finances

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Minnesota legislators made these last-minute additions to the state budget

Minnesota lawmakers made a number of last-minute additions to the state budget in the final days of the special session, including a first step toward a controversial State Office Building overhaul.

Here are a few of the items that were tucked into budget bills late in the game.

Capitol office renovation

Lawmakers started the process to renovate the State Office Building, which is the location of staff and House members’ offices and a number of meeting rooms. They created a Capitol area building account and directed state agency officials to channel certain proceeds into the fund, which can be used for the building update and repairs.

The state estimated in 2020 that a full renovation would total nearly $288 million. The bill doesn’t include a specific dollar amount, and DFL House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler noted there will be a public process to assess the renovation needs and cost and come up with a plan. While the creation of the account was a late addition to the state government finance bill, Winkler said the idea had long been discussed by officials.

“It’s a historic asset that is crumbling,” he said, noting lawmakers learned after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that the office building is a “security disaster.” It would take 20 State Patrol troopers to keep it as safe as other buildings around the Capitol complex, Winkler said, and the building is monitored by a single security guard.

Minnesota spent about $90 million to build the Senate Office Building that opened in 2016. The project was controversial, as Republicans condemned DFLers who controlled the Senate at the time for spending tax dollars on a “luxury office building.” House GOP Deputy Minority Leader Anne Neu Brindley said voters were outraged about the Senate building, and “just wait till they find out Democrats snuck in three times as much for a luxury redesign of the State Office Building.”

Lobbying ban

Legislators will no longer be able to simultaneously hold positions as lobbyists under a change slipped into the tax bill, which passed in the final hours of the special session. The regulation starts in January of 2023 and says a sitting member of the Legislature cannot work for, or get paid by, a business that gets most of its money from lobbying, government relations or government affairs services.

House GOP Minority Leader Kurt Daudt came under fire in 2019 when he took a job as public affairs director with the government relations firm Stateside Associations. Daudt declined to comment on the bill.

Law enforcement

A battle over the public safety budget and police accountability was one of the main showdowns this year, and two law enforcement-related amendments were included at the very end. One stops a requirement for police to arrest a person who missed a court date for some low-level offenses. Another makes it a crime to share personal information about law enforcement officers, such as their address.

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