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Lawsuit aims to block new Minnesota Senate building

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An ex-lawmaker is seeking to block a plan to construct a stately new $90 million Minnesota Senate building next to the Capitol.

Lawmakers earlier this year quietly approved authorization for the new structure as part of a tax bill, but former state Rep. Jim Knoblach objects on the grounds that the construction project was not included in a bonding bill, which is where it normally would be found.

Knoblach filed suit over the matter on Thursday, citing the state's "single subject rule," noted in the state Constitution: "No law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title."

Generally, state courts have given the Legislature a fair amount of latitude in creating bills that wrapped together a variety of issues. But certain laws have been challenged on the basis of the single source rule, with varying degrees of success, the Star Tribune reports.

Spokesmen for Gov. Mark Dayton and for Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, who led a charge for the project, declined comment before they could fully review the suit, KSTP reported.

Advocates of the project envision a new structure rising from the parking lot north of the Capitol into a building that would better accommodate daily legislative action and alleviate crowding in cramped hearing rooms in the Capitol. It would also have offices for most of the state's 67 senators. Backers hope to see it completed by 2015.

Critics have objected to the size of the project and the way it was slipped into legislation without more attention.

“It shows that in the last hours of session, the Democrats were focused on pay raises for legislators, paybacks for political allies and panoramic views from a new office building,” Minority Leader Rep. Kurt Daudt said, WCCO reported.

Knoblach called the project "a glaring waste of money" – but his suit focuses on how the issue was legislated, not on the building's merits, the Associated Press notes.

Among those who have considered the use of the single subject rule was a young Tim Pawlenty. The future governor penned a piece about the rule in 2000, after the Minnesota Supreme Court considered its use in the case Associated Builders and Contractors, et al. v. Ventura, et al.

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