Wednesday, March 14, 2012

False start for the Vikings stadium bill

Sen. Julie Rosen and Lester Bagley testify
After two hours of testimony on Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Local Government Operations Committee did not vote on the Vikings stadium bill and tabled the bill for later. While not the end of the road for the Vikings stadium, it was a significant blow to the prospects of the legislature passing a bill by the end of session.

One key deadline looms. The legislature's rules state that a bill must be passed by a committee by March 16th in order to get a vote this session. These rules can be suspended. Indeed, in a subsequent press conference, Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem (R - Rochester) indicated he might support waiving the committee deadline if needed. But an even bigger stumbling block has become apparent - it may not have the votes or support to pass either house in the Minnesota Legislature or the Minneapolis City Council.

Legislators and staffers huddle before the hearing
Republican Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers (R - Maple Grove) has been continually noncommittal on the stadium, including today. He hadn't had time to look over the bill, "it's too early." It's been too early for Zellers all session, and one has to wonder when he'll finally be ready to state his position. Without Zellers's support, the bill is all but dead.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Minneapolis Council President Barbara Johnson were questioned whether they had the support of council members. Both demurred, using the same reasoning as Zellers. They just got the bill, and haven't been able to parse it yet. Johnson's response was telling, "we have a fair amount, a substantial amount of support [on the council.]" Unless and until they can find seven votes on the council, legislators won't take the leap on a stadium bill. So far, Rybak and Johnson are at least two votes short.

Mayor Rybak and Council President Johnson confer
Even this single Senate committee may not have the needed votes. The rumor in the hallway before the hearing was that the committee was tied. If there were any vocal supporters on the committee, they didn't show it during the hearing. Skeptical questions abounded, enthusiasm was completely absent. Tabling the bill demonstrates that it would have failed today if a vote had been taken.

It's the two minute warning for the Vikings stadium bill, and things look grim for stadium advocates.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

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