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May 3, 2006
Prayer, politics and the stadium

It's official. You now need a scorecard to keep the stadium plans straight.

DFL Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson used his power as chair of the Senate Rules Committee to break a logjam in the Senate Taxes Committee and send a stadium bill to the Senate floor. But the bill is much different from the Twins bill passed by the GOP-controlled House.

Specifically, the bill pays for two stadiums with roofs. One is for the Twins; the other is for the Vikings. It raises the sales tax in the seven county metro area by .5 percent, but only if voters approve. And it pays for much more than stadiums. The higher sales tax would raise more than $12 billion over 30 years that would be spent on metro area transit projects.

Early in the day Tuesday Johnson was asked about the plans prospects in the tax committee:

"Once in awhile, chairs need some prompting, some coaching, some counseling, some encouragement. And I would say that the entire tax committee needs all of the above and more, to include prayer," he said.

But Johnson did more than just pray, as MPR's Tom Scheck reports:

In a day of political maneuvering, Senate DFLers took the unusual step of removing the Twins bill from the Senate Taxes Committee and sent it to the Rules Committee. The Rules Committee, which is controlled by senior DFLers, then dramatically overhauled the bill.

Johnson says he expects a full Senate vote on the proposal later this week.

"So we're kind of taking it a vote at a time, a step at a time to hopefully get these initiatives in a conference committee," he said.

Johnson says Senate DFLers removed the bill from the Taxes Committee because that panel has been wrangling over stadium legislation for five straight days.

Twins stadium supporters and many Republicans are howling. This is from the Pioneer Press:

House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, predicted the Republican House majority would not accept the two-stadium combination or the metrowide sales tax, which was proposed Tuesday in the DFL-led Senate Rules Committee.

"It's a movement to kill the Twins," Sviggum said. "There's no way that the House will support the metrowide sales tax."

Sviggum, who has repeatedly argued against combining Twins and Vikings stadium bills, accused Senate Democrats of "monkeying around" with the Twins-Hennepin County plan approved by the House last week.

Gov. Pawlenty put out a statement saying voters should challenge Senate DFLers to explain how the bill would actually build a Twins stadium. Of course it's the Senate DFL plan, not the House plan Pawlenty supports, that now actually formally asks voters to weigh in.

All this happened a few hours after legislative leaders said they want the session to end early. They said there's no reason the session can't end May 17, five days before the constitutional deadline. Anybody want to bet they'll make it?

Last week ago supporters of a gay marriage ban were upset at the Associated Press over an article questioning their financial disclosure. Now they've vented their anger by questioning the spending of their opponents. The AP's Martiga Lohn had the story:

Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage - whose own reporting practices have been under scrutiny - contended that OutFront Minnesota isn't revealing enough about its activities to keep the issue of same-sex unions off the ballot in November.

The complaints from Jeff Davis, president of the marriage group,
also said several smaller groups - Faith, Family, Fairness Alliance; Equality Minnesota; PFLAG Northfield; and an unnamed St. Cloud group -should be registered with the state as political committees working to influence a ballot question on the definition of marriage.

The groups cited deny they did anything wrong. Remember when the debate over gay marriage actually involved gay marriage?

Posted by Mike Mulcahy at 7:07 AM