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?
Posted at 10:21 AM on May 7, 2012
by Mark Zdechlik
Filed under: Campaign 2012: Minn. House Races
Former State Sen. Tarryl Clark's campaign says her first radio ad, "Fight," began airing Monday morning in northeastern Minnesota and will be on the air on several Iron Range area radio stations for at least two weeks.
On Saturday 8th District Democrats endorsed former Rep. Rick Nolan's campaign for Congress. Now Nolan, Clark and former Duluth City Council Member Jeff Anderson will compete in a DFL primary that will determine which Democrat will run against first term Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack in November.
Clark's ad features the candidate and a retired steelworker and accuses Cravaack of working to end Medicare and Social Security "as we know it." The Clark campaign is not saying how much money it's spending to air the radio ad.
Posted at 3:18 PM on May 7, 2012
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: MN Legislature
The Minnesota House has passed a $496 million package of public construction projects.
Today's vote of 99 - 32 sent the bonding bill on to the Senate.
Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, chair of the House Capital Investment Committee, acknowledged that this bill was being overshadowed by the pending Vikings stadium debate.
"Right now I feel more like the pre-game show for Monday Night Football," Howes said.
The measure includes $64 million for the University of Minnesota and $132 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. It includes $44 million to begin a restoration of the State Capitol building.
Lawmakers left out several local projects, including a St. Paul Saint ballpark and civic center expansions in Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud. But Howes explained that those projects, as well as others around the state, would be eligible for a new program under the Department of Employment and Economic Development. He said the bonding bill designates $50 million to that program.
Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, called the provision a "slush fund," and a "blank check for the administration." He tried unsuccessfully to redirect the money to local road projects.
Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said he was especially pleased that the bonding bill includes $30 million for flood mitigation projects.
"Not only do these dollars save state and federal dollars many times over, but it helps protect people and properties in these flood prone areas," Marquart said. "So, those are dollars well spent."
Here's a spreadsheet of what projects are in the bill.
It's too early to tell whether the Vikings stadium is going to succeed in the Minnesota House, but representatives clearly had something smaller in mind. They approved an amendment to the bill cutting the state subsidy to the stadium from $398 million to $293 million, a $105 million, 26 percent discount.
Here's the roll call (Click for a larger version):
This comes just days after Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said the team was capping its contribution at $427 million. If the bill passes with the amendment from Rep. Pat Garafalo, R-Farmington, by the team will be in for $532 million.(1 Comments)
Later this week, Common Cause Minnesota will ask the Ramsey County Attorney to work with the St. Paul Police Department to investigate Count Them All Properly, Inc, a corporation set up to cover costs associated with the 2010 gubernatorial recount.
On the advice of lawyers for the Republican Party of Minnesota, Count Them All Properly was set up in early December 2010 to help former Republican candidate Tom Emmer win the recount, according to former party Chairman Tony Sutton.
"We believe that there is evidence to begin an investigation of this group for forgery and making an illegal in-kind contribution to a candidate and political party," Common Cause Minnesota director Mike Dean wrote in a letter to Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.
Common Cause's basic argument is that because Count Them All Properly is organized as a business, not a political fund, any recount expenses it paid on behalf of the Republican Party and Tom Emmer for Governor are in-kind contributions, which would be a violation of state law.
The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board is investigating a similar complaint filed by Common Cause.
Count Them All Properly has been in the news recently, after the Star Tribune reported that two men listed as CEOs of the company never knew they were involved. In its letter, Common Cause points out that providing false information to the Minnesota Secretary of State's office, which registers businesses, is a felony under state law.
Lawyers that helped the party during the recount say that they billed Count Them All Properly, but that Sutton signed a contract legally obligating the party to pay the legal fees.
Here's a copy of Common Cause's letter.
After eight and a half hours of debate, the Minnesota House passed a bill that would finance a new football stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.
The House passed the measure 73-58. Here's the roll call:
The debate mostly focused on whether the investment was worth keeping the team in Minnesota.
"The fans want us to do something," Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said.
Other stadium supporters expressed concern the Vikings could leave Minnesota if a new stadium wasn't built. A few also said the bill will help jump start a struggling construction sector.
"We need to put our state to work," Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth said. "Today it's about putting food on the table."
But critics say a new stadium won't result in much economic benefit for the state. Rep. King Banaian, R-St. Cloud, also said the NFL monopoly is forcing lawmakers to make bad choices.
"We had patient lobbyists out there for weeks and months," Banaian said. "It was when (NFL Commissioner) Roger Goodell came to town and that's what made it happen for you because they came and said 'Nice team you got here. Shame if something happens to it.'"
Other opponents questioned whether the revenue source, the authorization of electronic pull-tabs, would generate enough money to pay for the new stadium.
The House did lower the state's contribution $105 million from $398 to $293 million.
Several House members say the Vikings can afford to spend more than their $427 million contribution.
Rep. Pat Garofalo laid out the new terms.
"With the changes we're putting into this bill, public support for the project will be reduced from $548 million to $443 million," Garofalo, R-Farmington, said. "Still a very generous support package from the public."
Vikings lobbyist Lester Bagley wouldn't comment as to whether the Vikings would balk at the change in the team's contribution. He said last week that the team would not spend more than $427 million.
Vikings lobbyist Lester Bagley said he was also pleased that the House passed the bill and was optimistic about their chances in the Senate. Bagle did express concern about the amendment that would require the Vikings to pay $105 million more for the stadium. He said that contribution would have to be lowered if the Senate passes the bill.
"We did negotiate an agreement in good faith that had the team contributing $427 million up front and $13 million a year. That is what was negotiated over a period of months. The amendment that went on that is now the House position in the bill is not workable."
Gov. Dayton said he was pleased that the House passed the bill by a wider margin than he expected. As dozens of Vikings supporters looked on in the governor's reception room, Dayton said he was pleased that 40 Democrats and 33 Republicans voted for it.
"It was a strong bipartisan vote. The voices of the people of Minnesota were heard tonight. Those of you who are here and the thousands all over the state are rejoicing this terrific vote."
The plan would also require the city of Minneapolis to spend $150 million.
The Minnesota Senate has yet to act on the bill.
The Senate could take up the bill as early as Tuesday. Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, says she expects the Senate to take up the bill tomorrow morning. The Senate is in session at 9am.