Judge hears arguments on Senate office building lawsuit

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Legislative logrolling or politics as usual. That's the issue a judge is trying to figure out following arguments on both sides of a lawsuit over a new legislative office building near the state capitol.

A lawyer for a former Republican state legislator asked a judge to block construction of the new Senate office building on constitutional grounds.

MPR News reports former Rep. Jim Knoblach contends that lawmakers violated the state constitution last year when they approved financing for the building as part of the tax bill.

His attorney, Erick Kaardal, said the legislation was a "glaring violation of the single-subject clause," according to the MPR Report. That is the law that demands legislators vote separately on unrelated topics.

Knoblach and other critics of the project have said it was a last-minute addition to the tax bill by Senate DFL leaders.

The chair of the Senate Tax Committee says that's not the case. Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said the office project was "on the table" for more than a year and that the provision was added onto the tax bill three weeks before final passage, according to MPR.

The state is pushing for dismissal of the lawsuit.

The Pioneer Press reports John Garry of the attorney general's office said the subjects in the same law have to be connected only by a "mere filament." Garry said in this case the common thread is the tax bill and office project both involve raising revenue for government operations.

Garry added as a private citizen with no special interest in the law Knoblach does not have proper standing to bring the lawsuit.

The Senate Rules Committee approved a plan and a price tag for the office building last week.

Republicans were critical of the plan calling it too expensive, saying it didn't get a public airing and that its finances violated the state requirement that state debt get supermajority support in the legislature.

According to MPR, Judge Leslie Marek took the matter under advisement and promised a quick ruling.

Knoblach has not decided how far he will push the case if Marek rules against him, according to the Pioneer Press.

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