Now each building is partially occupied, as the Capitol press corps numbers seven, although they hold a few more college interns during the session.
With great surprise, and equal suspicion, the press corps discovered recently the buildings could be bulldozed in the next year or so, as part of a plan for a new office building to house Senate Republicans and their staff.
The state agency that serves as the campus landlord notified press house tenants of a “Proviso” in the 2020 Capital Budget calling for a predesign study of such a project that would include tearing down the current Senate Republican office building and replacing it with one without current structural problems. The project would also rehab and remodel two other campus buildings.
That proviso was added to the budget on the second-to-last day of the session, as other budgets were being trimmed to keep money in the budget for something kind of occupying the news cycles, COVID-19. It was added as a negotiation between the two chambers, which each had their eyes on better office space.
Only a true Capitol savant could know the construction project would involve the press houses, because they aren’t mentioned by either their official names or colloquial names. Instead, the proviso merely refers to demolishing an area called Opportunity Zone 6, and suggests unspecified “tenants” might be moved into a building a block away.
Hmm. A closed-door deal for a late-session proviso that would tear down the press houses without specifically mentioning them. Add in that this happened just shy of three months after the press corps won a state Supreme Court ruling that legislators must release more of their records, and it would be safe to say the reporters’ Spidey sense was tingling about possible payback.
There was even some speculation about that on the prime vehicle for speculation, Twitter.
Sen. David Frockt, chairman of the Senate Capitol Budget Committee, later assured the press corps the proviso was definitely not payback. It was not as transparent and inclusive as it could have been, he said, but everything is still in early stages and the state will do a better job of bringing the press into discussions about the project.
Frockt is a stand-up, forthright guy, so we are inclined to take him at his word, if for no other reason than we know that most legislators are better at being careless than nefarious.
Plus, we’ve heard Senate Republicans complain about the leaky roof in the Newhouse Building, our neighbor to the west where most of them have offices, for quite some time. It’s brick and younger than our buildings, but was built in the 1930s as a “temporary” building. So we can suspect them of merely looking out for their own best interests as long as they provide a way for us to look out for ours.