by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
Chances of a special legislative session devoted to the Vikings’ stadium may be gone.
Republican legislative leaders today on Wednesday, Nov. 2 left Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s office after an hour’s meeting complaining about the lack of a stadium plan, and the need for public hearings.
“Without a plan, I don’t know how we’re going to do that,” said House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple, of holding a special legislative session.
Dayton has been proposing to call a special session prior to Thanksgiving to settle the stadium issue.
The governor has spoken of wanting an up-or-down stadium vote.
Dayton spoke last night with Vikings’ owner Zygi Wilf and had scheduled stadium-related meetings for tomorrow, he said.
Wilf has four shopping malls on the East Coast that are currently without power and a daughter getting married, but understood the importance of meeting, Dayton explained.
But the governor canceled the meetings, and no longer plans to release his stadium proposal on Monday as intended. “I’m disappointed, because we were making progress, I thought,” said Dayton.
Dayton again spoke of creating jobs by building a stadium — he would do both the Arden Hills’ project and a Minneapolis project if possible, he said — and argued that delay will only serve to increase construction costs and leave officials facing the same lingering questions.
But it was clear to him that the legislative leaders do not favor the pre-Thanksgiving special session that he had proposed, Dayton said.
“(It’s) all in limbo now,” he said.
And what is the Legislature’s stadium plan, Dayton asked? “I’d like to know myself?” he said.
While careful in his comments about an email that Zellers had sent Republican House members saying there would be no special session — an email that found its way into the media — Dayton explained that Zellers at previous meetings had not indicated that he did not support having a special session.
Zellers said his email was meant for House members only.
Republican legislative leaders did not specifically rule out agreeing to a special session before the start of the regular legislative session on Jan. 24, but repeatedly stressed there had to be a stadium plan first.
“In order to get to that (special session) we have to have a plan,” Zellers said.
Many legislators are not familiar with the issues revolving in the stadium debate, and cannot asked to be vote on something they don’t understand, Zellers said.
They’re working towards finding broad, bipartisan support, said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, standing next to Zellers and flanked by Democratic legislative leaders.
“And frankly have the support of the public,” Koch said.
Jeff Anderson, director of corporate communications for the Minnesota Vikings, in a statement said that while recent developments are “very disappointing,” the team stands ready to work with lawmakers on a stadium solution that works for Minnesota and the team.
“The Vikings are concerned about the turn of events surrounding a stadium solution in Minnesota,” Anderson said.
“The Vikings stadium issue has been heavily debated in the public for over 10 years,” he said. “With less than 90 days left on the team’s lease, the urgency to act is on us.”
The stadium developments follow Tuesday’s news that legislative leaders do not believe a local sales tax increase without an accompanying referendum can pass the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Some local officials, such as Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, have argued against a referendum, saying elections serve as one.
According to a House Republican spokeswoman, there are no public stadium hearings currently scheduled in the House.