Vikings stadium bill: Representatives 'pull rabbit out of hat,' proposal advances to full Senate

Vikings rubes celebrate in the Capitol after last night's vote.
Vikings rubes celebrate in the Capitol after last night's vote.
Star Tribune video screengrab

On April 16, the Vikings stadium bill seemed to die an anticlimactic death in the House Government Operations and Elections Committee, which seemingly killed it with a 9-6 vote.

Afterward, the chief author of the House bill, Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said it would require someone to "pull a rabbit out of a hat for this thing to stay alive." Apparently one of our legislators should consider working as a magician when the legislature isn't in session.

Last night, in a move that would make David Copperfield proud, the Vikings stadium bill was approved by the House with a 73-to-58 vote. Prior to the vote, a number of amendments were passed, the most major upping the team's share of the project cost from $427 million to $532 million.

Vikes spokesman Lester Bagley said making the team pay more "isn't workable," but didn't indicate the team would reject the whole proposal should the Senate decide to keep the Vikings-pay-more provision.

Speaking of the Senate, legislators in that chamber might debate the stadium bill as soon as today. And despite yesterday's result, it's no foregone conclusion that the bill will survive the legislature's upper chamber.

The Senate could vote on the bill as soon as today.
The Senate could vote on the bill as soon as today.

As Politics in Minnesota notes, "the bill now faces what is likely to be a tougher vote in the Minnesota Senate, where political observers [say] the right-wing contingent in the caucus is more organized and openly hostile toward the stadium proposal." If senators approve the bill, then a conference committee will address any differences between the House and Senate versions. It would then be sent to legislators for one more round of floor votes before reaching the desk of Gov. Mark Dayton, who is sure to sign the bill into law.

Yesterday's debate followed mostly predictable lines. Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria and one of our favorites, spoke in opposition of using a gambling expansion to pay for the state's portion of the stadium, saying that doing so means "it becomes the stadium that losers built."

But Rep. Tom Anzelc, D-Balsam Township, told Franson and other gambling opponents to "get over it," saying that Minnesotans "want to participate in games of chance that are fair, that are legal and have a purpose."

Garofalo may have saved taxpayers a cool $100 million.
Garofalo may have saved taxpayers a cool $100 million.

The amendment requiring the team to pay more was introduced by Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington. Whereas the original bill gave all naming rights proceeds to the Vikings, Garofalo's proposal would split naming rights income between the team and state. Another approved amendment would give the state up to 25 percent of the sale price if Zygi Wilf decides to sell the team.

Gov. Mark Dayton predicted last week that the bill would pass with a 68-to-65 vote in the House. In the end, the larger-than-expected margin was largely attributable to more DFLers than expected voting in favor. As blogger Nick Coleman notes:

Rep. Paul Marquart, D-Dilworth, seemed to capture the way many pro-stadium legislators feel about the bill when he said "Whether or not we waited two years or three years or five years or 10 years, there never will be a perfect plan in a perfect political climate."

A dash of caution for those of you who spent last night dreaming about a purple and gold-clad Christian Ponder throwing interceptions touchdowns in Best Buy General Mills stadium -- if the bill fails in the Senate, it wouldn't be the first time a Vikings stadium bill passed one chamber but died in the other. As the Pioneer Press notes, in 2006, a Vikings stadium bill was approved by the Senate but not by the House.

Related coverage:
-- House Speaker Kurt Zellers wants Vikings stadium bill to pass... but won't vote for it?
-- Dayton: Vikings stadium bill needs to be approved this session, or it's too late
-- Stadium bill deader than Vikings' postseason chances, but Dayton hopeful for another shot
-- Majority of Minneapolis City Council now supports Vikings stadium
-- Vikings, Rybak, Dayton, pro-Vikes legislators finally unveil stadium plan

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