The Minnesota House is expected to vote on the Vikings stadium bill today. The vote is likely to be close and there’s no certainty it will pass.
GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers’ announcement last week that he won’t support the bill could give political cover to other Republicans who may not want to vote for it.
The public is expected to watch the final vote closely. Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, said last week that this is the type of issue that voters will remember in November.
Polls show most people want private funding, not public taxpayer money, to pay for the stadium.
Combine those issues and you have one of the toughest votes that lawmakers will take this session.
Here are the lawmakers I’ll be watching as amendments are proposed and the board opens for the final vote.
The Minneapolis Delegation
MPR’s Tim Pugmire did a good job of detailing how many members of the Minneapolis delegation don’t support the Vikings stadium plan. Watch to see if some people in the delegation start indicating support. It has a stronger shot if a few, like Rep. Bobby Joe Champion, support it.
The St. Paul Delegation
There has been much hand-wringing over the past few weeks that St. Paul is getting skunked on this stadium plan. The concern is that the Target Center renovation will put the Minneapolis arena in direct competition with St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center for concerts and other events.
Watch to see if an amendment forgiving some of St. Paul’s loan is adopted. There could also be amendments calling for help to build a new St. Paul Saints ballpark in downtown St. Paul. A spoonful of that sugar can help make the medicine go down for St. Paul members who are reluctant to vote for the bill.
Several House members are retiring. That means those lawmakers don’t have to worry about incurring the wrath of voters in a primary or the general election. Some may want to take a stand against a stadium. Others may feel more free to vote for it. Others could also vote for it to spare the next person to hold the seat from facing the issue. The stadium faces longer odds if a few of them balk at backing the bill.
Both parties are keying in on several lawmakers in November. Watch and see how they vote on amendments. If those individuals vote against amendments supported by the bill’s authors and the Vikings, they may be getting feedback that says their constituents don’t support the stadium. The opposite may be true if they vote for amendments supported by the Vikings and stadium bill authors.
Here are a few of the lawmakers in this category.
Rep. King Banaian, R-St. Cloud, won a close contest in 2010 (recount close) and was on the fence about the stadium bill in November despite questioning the economics of building a new stadium.
Rep. Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea, passed once on a vote in the House Government Operations Committee (he eventually vote no). It’s a signal that he’s conflicted on the issue. He barely won in 2010 and is being targeted by Democrats.
Other Republicans being targeted by Democrats include Rep. Bruce Vogel, R-Willmar, Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, and Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau.
Rep. Kory Kath, DFL-Owatonna, and Rep. Patti Fritz, DFL-Faribault, are GOP targets. Watch to see whether DFL leaders try to protect them from a controversial vote.
There are two House pairings where incumbents from different parties will face each other in November. It’s hard to see Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township, voting against the bill, because he has strong labor ties. Does his November opponent, Rep. Carolyn McElfatrick, R-Deer River, vote against it to mobilize the GOP base or vote for it to signal support among the more labor friendly district?
Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, is a labor-friendly Republican who is also the Capital Investment Committee Chair, so it would be surprising if he votes against the bill. He’s been paired with Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji.
Watch to see how many conservative lawmakers join Reps. Drazkowski, Buesgens, Downey and Wardlow in opposing the amendments. It’s bad news for the stadium if a significant number of freshman Republicans side with them when they propose controversial amendments.
Those are my thoughts. Who are you watching?