The Free Press, Mankato, MN


April 10, 2014

Spear column: From Taxes to DWI, Capitol pace quickens

Majority leader plows through Senate building dust-up, public perception


The project came about in connection to the State Capitol renovation that will eliminate Senate offices.

The committee-approved project now also will house all 67 senators, instead of the original 43 offices. Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, had put the project in last year’s tax bill instead of the bonding bill, where it would seem to be more in line with tradition.

Questions have been raised about it being a pork project slipped into a tax bill in the dark of the night. Murphy said she couldn’t speak for Bakk but notes there were public hearings on the tax bill and at the Legislature there are “many, many ways to get to the end goal.”

Including a building in a tax bill is allowed by the rules and not that unusual, she said.

In the end, the House committee saw the project as equal in cost or less than renting space or putting senators in various buildings. And that wouldn’t be very taxpayer friendly. Citizens shouldn’t have to go on a “scavenger hunt” to find their senators, Murphy said.

The House seems to have acted reasonably on this even if it looks like they’re cleaning up the Senate’s mess.

DWI "immunity"

Changes to the law that some believed gave legislators immunity from being arrested for DWI kept legislators up late Wednesday night. The House changed the law in an attempt to clarify that legislators can be arrested during the session if they are caught driving drunk.

The language in the Minnesota Constitution says legislators have immunity from arrest while they are in session except for certain specified crimes including “breach of the peace.” The proposed change would define “breach of the peace” as a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony.

Sounds like we’ve got it covered.

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