House passes Vikings stadium conference committee bill

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

Now it rests with the Senate.

The Republican House today (Thursday, May 10) passed the Vikings stadium conference committee report after debating the legislation for the last time.

Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, sharply criticized the Vikings stadium bill for containing provisions cloaking basic team financial information from the public. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

The report passed the House on a 71 to 60 vote and now faces its last legislative challenge in the Senate later today.

Debate on the bill in the House that seeks to build a $1 billion stadium at the site of the Metrodome was emotional.

Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, called the legislation “a little scary” but urged fellow lawmakers to support it.

“I don’t know what you think you’ll get by sending it back to conference committee,” said Abeler, arguing the bill represented a pretty good deal.

But Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, argued provisions in the bill essentially exclude the public from learning basic financial details about the Vikings — how much money they earned from naming rights for instance.

It is common for the public to have access to basic financial information of companies involved in agreements with government, she explained.

But only a limited number of people in state government would have access to team financial records and even then couldn’t reveal them, she argued.

“It’s very troubling to me,” said Holberg, who has extensive background in data privacy issues.

Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, argued the gambling provisions in the stadium bill established a kind of reverse Robin Hood syndrome.

Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, listens to the stadium debate earlier this morning in the House. Sitting to the left of Dettmer is Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines. Both lawmakers voted against the bill. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

“We’re robbing the poor to subsidize the rich,” he said of the electronic pull-tabs and bingo provisions.

Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, argued that to vote for the stadium bill was in effect to vote for a tax increase.

That’s because charitable gambling revenue estimates are bogus, he argued. There’s nothing in existence on which the estimates can solidly be based, argued Hackbarth.

Moreover, they’re actually not building a just new stadium in Minneapolis but also one in St. Paul,  said Hackbarth, referring to a possible St. Paul Saints ballpark funding stream in the stadium bill.

But the House voted to send the stadium conference committee report to the Senate.

Area lawmakers voting for the bill: Abeler, Atkins, Benson, J., Davids, Dittrich, Fritz, Garofalo, Gottwalt, Hilstrom, Hortman, Knuth, LeMieur, Lilllie, McFarlane, McNamara, Sanders, Simon, Tillberry, and Winkler.

Voting against: Anderson, B., Anderson, S., Barrett, Buesgens, Daudt, Dean, Dettmer, Downey, Erickson, Hackbarth, Hansen, Holberg, Kieffer, Kiffmeyer, Laine, Lenczewski, Loon, Mack, McDonald, Myhra, Peppin, Petersen, B., Runbeck, Scott, Wardlow, and Zellers.