Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers says the Minnesota House won’t vote on the Vikings stadium bill Saturday because stadium supporters indicated to him that they didn’t have the votes yet to pass the bill.
“There were a lot of them who said don’t bring it up today,” Zellers told MPR News. “We’re going to wait for the authors and the advocates to say ‘we believe we have all of our votes now.’ Until then it’s too early.”
Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL legislative leaders held a news conference Saturday afternoon to call on Zellers to hold a vote on the stadium bill. They say they met Zellers’ demand for Democrats to put up 34 votes–half of the votes required to pass the bill in the House.
Zellers countered that Democrats fell short of their promise to deliver votes when the Vikings stadium bill was debated in the House Government Operations Committee. He would not say whether he intends to vote for the bill.
DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen disputed Zellers’ characterization of his vote counting.
“If the speaker doesn’t trust that the 34 votes on the Democratic side are there, he should just take up the bill and find out,” Thissen said.
Vikings lobbyist Lester Bagley also said he isn’t sure who Zellers talked to about the bill, but Bagley said it has enough support to pass.
“We believe the votes are there especially if the House DFL puts up 34 votes,” Bagley said. “We have not told the speaker that they aren’t there, but we do know that there is strong support for the Vikings and support for resolving this issue.”
Bagley said he believes the Vikings stadium bill is caught up in end of session negotiations. In addition to the stadium Gov. Dayton and legislative leaders are trying to find agreement on a tax bill and a public works construction bonding bill.
Zellers said his caucus is putting a priority on a tax bill and the bonding bill. He said they’re still pushing for a bonding bill that would spend $496 million on several projects including restoration of the state Capitol building. He also said they want to pass a tax bill that includes tax cuts for businesses and residential property.
Dayton hasn’t met with GOP leaders in several days, but his staff has been negotiating on his behalf. GOP House Majority Leader Matt Dean said he would have hoped Dayton would have been more involved in recent days.
“I don’t know where he has been. I don’t know why he has been absent,” Dean said.
Bob Hume, a spokesman for Dayton, said GOP legislative leaders have not requested a meeting with the governor.
The tie-up over the stadium comes just three days before a Monday deadline to adjourn. Zellers says he’s still committed to meeting the self-imposed deadline but hinted that the Legislature will have to meet longer than that.
“If we need to make a little extra time for some of the shenanigans that these folks are going to plan, we’ll do that because it’s more important to do the right thing for Minnesotans,” Zellers said.
It isn’t clear whether the House and Senate will hold a rare Sunday session. GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem suggested on Friday night that the Senate would hold a Sunday session to take up the Vikings stadium. DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk said he believed the appetite wasn’t there to meet on Sunday.