The effort to build a new Vikings stadium stalled out earlier this week but nothing is ever dead at the Capitol until the legislature goes home.
The bill is missing today’s committee deadline: Sen. Ray Vandeveer (R-Forest Lake) confirmed his committee isn’t hearing it today, and said there was “nothing planned yet” regarding its return to his panel. The bill didn’t even make it onto the agenda in the House commerce committee.
But there were some stadium rumblings nonetheless.
The Senate Commerce Committee approved a bill authored by Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, that would offer the team a loan, rather than a subsidy for a new stadium.
“Seventy-five percent of the citizens in this state, over the last decades, and as recently as November 2010, have said they don’t want to support a stadium directly or indirectly with public funds, and to date, they haven’t had a voice,” Chamberlain said. “The opposition to the bill is a political push. The most powerful people in the state are on the other side, and they’d rather not give any light to this bill, for the people. This is truly the people’s bill, because it doesn’t shake them down and take their money.”
Vikings vice president Lester Bagley called the measure a “false promise that won’t resolve the stadium issue,” in a letter to the committee. “Neither the team nor the (National Football) League will support this legislation.”
Still, it may be the Vikings best hope, as DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk observed of Chamberlain’s success.
“It’s a stadium bill, and its amendable. So I don’t think it would be fair to say that just because Senator Rosen’s bill might not have met the committee deadline, there may well have been a stadium bill that met the committee deadline,” he said.
Bakk said he had quit going to meetings on the matter, and said that a bill should have been introduced months ago to allow a proper vetting in legislative committees. That said, he wasn’t ready to pronounce the effort dead.
“I don’t think its fair to say a Vikings stadium is dead,” Bakk said. “Nothing’s ever dead around here.”
House Speaker Kurt Zellers remained equivocal about the matter.
“We have all said that the general fund isn’t going to pay for a stadium. Right now, the way the bill sits, that’s what backs up if the pull-tabs don’t come in. And if I’m blamed for looking out for the taxpayers of Minnesota,” Zellers said at his weekly briefing. “How many votes are there? If folks spend a lot more time worrying about that, they’d probably be a lot more productive than whether I’m for or against a bill.”
Repuboican Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem’s racino bill is heading for the state government and veterans affairs committee on Monday.
Although the proceeds are earmarked for economic development right now, Senjem didn’t rule out redirecting them, either to paying back the school shift or a Vikings stadium.
“I’m not going to complicate Sen. [Julie] Rosen’s bill,” Senjem said. “We’ve got to shake out the electronic pull-tabs. If its established that they just don’t, as I’ve said earlier, have the horsepower to accommodate the bonds, then maybe it’s something to look at. But it’s not on the radar screen right now.”
And it didn’t sound like the rest of the Senate is ready to ride to a stadium bill’s rescue, either. Senjem wouldn’t commit a trip to the rules committee for a committee deadline waiver.
“We’re going to leave it there for the time being, when and if we have a hearing there. When and if it moves out, we’ll have to deal with the bill deadline issue,” Senjem said.
He also said supporters shouldn’t be so quick to criticize Zellers for the slow pace in the House.
“He’s behind this bill, frankly, behind the Vikings,” Senjem said. “They may have some problems. Like I have some problems. I’m not altogether sure I could vote for the bill today, given my understanding of the electronic pull tab issues.”
He said the charitable gambling matter needed a better airing to start with.
“I don’t think its been fully assessed, by virtue of the timeline, to really understand the appetite across Minnesota for electronic pull tabs” Senjem said. “I’d like to hear, for instance, from some of the gaming managers across Minnesota. If we do this, are they going to implement the program?”