House committee to hold hockey hearing

The 2013 legislative session begins next week, and professional hockey will be one of the early topics discussed.

Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, announced today that he plans to hold a hearing on the economic impact of the NHL lockout. Atkins will be the new chair of the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, which has scheduled the hearing for Jan. 23.

In a news release, Atkins said he has invited NHL players and owners, and that St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman will testify.

“Hearing from Mayor Coleman and the players will be helpful, and I hope to have NHL owners there, too, to explain why a business with record-setting revenues is shut down,” Atkins said. “But I’m really hoping to give a voice to all those folks who are being hurt by this through no fault of their own – the restaurant servers, the parking lot attendants, the vendors, the fans, the small business owners – they are the ones who are suffering.”

Atkins said he thinks it’s appropriate to hold the NHL responsible for the economic impact on St. Paul, given that state tax money was used to build the Minnesota Wild’s home arena.

“We need to consider legislation that sets out special rules for entities that accept public funds and then lock out employees and hurt local economies,” he said.

Atkins said non-partisan House Research estimated that the NHL work stoppage has already cost $5.9 million in lost state and local tax revenue.