MARSHALL - Dozens of amendments. Hours of debate. Sports fans awaiting the results.
Must be a stadium issue.
The Minnesota House capped a long day Monday by approving a new-look Vikings stadium bill on a 73-58 vote. The debate began at 2 p.m., and the final vote wasn't taken until around 10:30 p.m. In between, representatives sifted through myriad amendments - some that took less than a minute to vote on, others that involved lengthy discussion.
One of them - an amendment that would cost the Vikings an additional $105 million - stood out above the others and was even called a "deal-breaker" by some. That amendment easily passed with bipartisan approval, but only time will tell if the Vikings will play along.
"Whenever you ask someone to pay more they're not going to like it," said District 21A Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, who voted in favor of the bill. "But I think this bill was a step in the right direction. I felt this was a reasonable compromise to ask them to come up with more money."
In the House, more Democrats (40) supported the bill than Republicans (33). District 22A Rep. Joe Schomacker of Luverne voted yes, as did District 21B Republican Rep. Paul Torkelson of Nelson Township and District 22B Republican Rep. Rod Hamilton of Mountain Lake. District 20A DFL Rep. Andrew Falk of Murdock voted against the bill.
The plan negotiated by the governor, lawmakers, the Minneapolis mayor and the team would have the Vikings pay for about $427 million of the construction costs, or about 44 percent. The state would pay $398 million, with the money coming from an expansion of gambling. The city of Minneapolis would pitch in $150 million by redirecting an existing hospitality tax.
A plan to pay the state's share through a gambling expansion survived an attempt to remove it when House members turned back a push to replace that money with fees on tickets, concessions and other fan purchases.
"I'm not a big fan of gambling in the state," Swedzinski said. "The electronic pulltabs can be a benefit to increase revenue and give tax relief to a lot of those organizations that currently have pulltabs. I see tax relief for local charities in the bill, and I think that's one of the biggest positives in the whole proposal. It will allow more of the money to be kept locally. People say, 'Well, what's the benefits to the local economy;' that's one of them."
Swedzinski said it's not uncommon for a bill to be saddled with so many amendments. He said amendments are part of the bill-crafting process and can go a long way to make bills palatable for everyone.
"Some of them were in there to help the bill, to help some people feel better about it, others were there to hurt the process - usually you know which ones those are," he said.
The Vikings will play in the Metrodome this season, but all bets are off after that, as the Metrodome lease will have expired.
The team has made it clear it wants to stay in Minnesota and so far, at least in the House, lawmakers have made it clear they want a stadium bill passed to keep them here, only on their terms. Among other amendments that passed: the bill removes Hennepin County taxes as a backup funding source in case the planned state revenues are not sufficient; stretches the lease to 40 years instead of 30; and increases the public share if the team is sold.