- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Thought the dust was starting to settle on the political feud over Minnesota’s new Senate Office Building? Think again.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann hinted last week that his members wouldn’t automatically lug their desks, chairs and office plants next year into the new $90 million legislative building erected over GOP objections. As it turns out, there’s nothing requiring the Senate GOP to relocate to a building they considered unnecessary and lavish. The caucus could try to make a political point by refusing to leave the 83-year-old State Office Building.

“If I’m given a choice, my choice is to stay right where we are,” Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound, said Tuesday. “I like being in that historic building. We have plenty of room for the staff that we have.”

In an interview Monday, Department of Administration Commissioner Matt Massman acknowledged he has no authority to force Senate Republicans from their existing quarters. And Massman, whose department is the custodian for state government buildings, said there is no concrete plan for immediately converting space Republicans would leave behind into something new.

Massman said it would take an agreement between House and Senate leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton to re-allocate the space. The working assumption had been that the full Senate would slide over to the new building in January.

“The new Senate Office Building was designed to have offices for each of the 67 senators. I’m preparing for that situation at this point,” Massman said, adding, “Vacant offices would not be the best use of publicly funded space in the Capitol complex.”

Senate Democrats have been temporarily without individual legislator offices because of an ongoing Capitol remodeling due to last into 2017. Offices for aides have been scattered across multiple buildings.

Vic Thorstenson, the building project point person for majority Senate Democrats, said Republican legislators would be assigned offices in the new building, even if they opt against using them.

“The committee hearings are going to be there. The floor sessions are going to be there,” Thorstenson said. “We hope they would move over.”

Hann said next year’s session is scheduled to last only 10 weeks so it may not be worth the hassle to move until after the 2016 election, when Senate control is on the line. The final decision won’t be made until the 28 Republicans meet later this fall.

“Nobody has been calling me or sending me messages saying, ‘When do we get to move?’ It’s not even on the radar,” Hann said. “We all have offices now and they work just fine.”

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