The House Government and Operations Committee will hold a hearing on the Vikings stadium this evening at the Capitol, and by all accounts, this is the biggest hurdle a new Vikings stadium will face to date.
As most of you who frequent DN already know, there are two key main points of opposition to a stadim: using public money, and Minneapolis voters not getting a voter referendum on the extension of city taxes to pay for the stadium.
The folks who say a referendum is required under law are only partially right--if the Legislature votes to override a referendum, then none is required. That's what the Vikings want, and that's what the language of the bill currently says.
This is where tonight's committee meeting could get dicey. Committee Chairwoman Joyce Peppers (R--Rogers) is a supporter of a voter referendum, and as the committee chairwoman, she holds sway and influence over her committee.
I tire of the argument that not having a referendum is illegal--it is perfectly legal if given the blessing of the Legislature. It was done for Target Field. I understand the point of view of people who want a referendum, but please, don't sit here and tell me that the 'will of the people' is being subverted if there isn't one. The House of Representatives are voted on by the people, and if they do something that the people don't like, they'll pay for it at the polls.
Anyway, now that I'm off of my soapbox, a strategy being discussed by stadium backers at the Capitol is to try and have the bill pass through committee on a voice vote. A voice vote allows a bill to move along without any legisltor going on record with a 'yay' or 'nay'. Morrie Lanning, who has been carrying the water for the bill in the House, thinks this might be a way to keepo things going without stadium opponents paying a political price. From the Strib article penned by Mike Kaszuba:
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, the chief House author of stadium legislation, said on Friday that the stadium has "significant support" on the 15-member panel, which includes nine Republicans. But, he cautioned, "I would not hazard any kind of projection" on an outcome.
Lanning said that with the project likely to face stiff opposition, he was hoping for a strategy that would move the stadium ahead without a recorded vote, which might be more acceptable to reluctant legislators.
"The best we could hope for probably is a voice vote," said Lanning. He said a voice vote would allow the panel to avoid a definitive vote in order "to see this thing keep moving."
Lanning said, however, that he didn't know whether Peppin and the panel would agree to the maneuver.
So if I'm reading the tea leaves correctly, it seems like the bill should pass on a recorded vote, but the stadium backers are wanting it to pass on a voice vote. Hmmm, strange. Regrdless of what bill is before the legisltaure, and regardless of what political party you might be affiliated with, I would like these folks to take a stand and have their votes recorded. If it can pass on a recorded vote or a voice vote, do a recorded vote, let me know where you stand.
And our old friend Kurt Zellers might be coming around. Zellers, who has been particularly non-committal in this whole process--some would even go so far as to say gutless--might have found said guts. Zellers has said that if the stadium bill clears this next hurdle, there's a "good chance the proposal will get a vote by the entire House in coming weeks."
It's not over yet, but this is moving forward. As long as the bill is moving forward, it isn't dead. And if it isn't dead, we've still got a shot.
And that's good news.