Governor could consider special stadium session

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he could consider a special legislative session later this year to debate building a Minnesota Vikings stadium, but only under certain conditions.

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he could consider a special legislative session later this year to debate building a Minnesota Vikings stadium, but only under certain conditions.

However, Dayton and others say they hope it does not come down to that.

While one House committee voted down a stadium construction plan Monday night, another is considering a related bill Thursday. There is a possibility that committee members could attempt to amend the full stadium bill onto the measure by Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove.

The Kriesel bill contains gambling expansion options that could be used to fund stadium construction.

The House Taxes Committee is scheduled to take up the Kriesel bill at 6 p.m. Thursday.


Dayton said that if the current Legislature does not pass a stadium bill, a special session would be helpful because it would keep legislators' focus on that one project. But he said the likelihood of a special session would depend on whether an agreement is reached in advance.

The bill needs bipartisan support, he added.

The governor wanted to call a special session before last Thanksgiving, but a stadium plan never came together.

Dayton said he still hopes the football stadium proposal will be revived this session, which legislative leaders hopes ends by April 30, and said he wants to see votes by the full House and Senate.

"If the Legislature turns it down, so be it," he said, but said it should not simply die in committee.

A House committee defeated a stadium plan 9-6 Monday night and a similar bill has been stalled in a Senate committee since last month.

The Vikings, Minneapolis officials and some state leaders have agreed to build a $975 million stadium on the current Metrodome site, but the proposal faces opposition for several reasons, including its source of funding comes from expanding pulltab and bingo games.

Meanwhile, Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, renewed his proposal for an Arden Hills site for the stadium Wednesday. He said there still is time to work on the proposal and pass it this year.


Abortion bills pass

The Senate and House passed separate Republican-supported abortion-related bills Wednesday.

Senators voted 43-23 to regulate clinics that do at least 10 abortions a year.

"This legislation is to ensure women's safety in the state of Minnesota," said the bill's author, Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, said.

The bill is designed to make sure Minnesota clinics do not have unsafe conditions like some found elsewhere, Robling said.

Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, responded: "We have never had a problem like that in Minnesota."

The House voted 80-48 on a bill requiring doctors to be present when women take abortion-inducing medications.

"Doctors have to be present during surgical abortions," bill author Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, said. "I'm trying to make that the same standard."


The bill also would require the physician to "make all reasonable efforts" to ensure the patient makes a return visit within 12 to 18 days.

Opponents said the bill is simply meant to condemn abortion.

Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, said the effects of the pill are not evident until a few days later.

"This is putting a standard in place that really doesn't make sense," she said.

Immigration bill passes

The House passed a bill 77-52 Wednesday that would keep local governments from prohibiting the sharing of a person's immigration status.

Bill author Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Shafer, said the bill puts local laws more in line with federal ones.

The bill would essentially end "sanctuary" policies for immigrants in cities such as Minneapolis, St. Paul and Worthington.


Opponents said that means the bill could reduce immigrants' cooperation with police.

"It won't make us safer," Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, said. "It won't solve the immigration issues we have in our society."

Discussions stalled

Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday end-of-session discussions with leaders are not bringing them closer to a resolution.

He said he thought meetings with legislative leaders Tuesday about what needs to happen to finish the session that they were "moving closer together," but as they traded proposals throughout the day, they moved farther apart, he said.

Much of the discussion centered on tax issues, such as Republican plans to reduce statewide business property taxes.

Dayton reiterated that lawmakers do not have to get anything done this year, although he said he would like to see a public works borrowing bill and, ideally, a decision about the Vikings stadium.

Dayton said it is up to leaders and lawmakers to decide what they need to do.


"They're accountable to the people of Minnesota," he said. He said he does not have other meetings with leaders planned.

Republicans who control the Legislature plan to adjourn for the year by April 30.

Fee increases still possible?

Proposed hunting and fishing license fee increases were shot down in the Senate Tuesday, but Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he hopes there still is a way to implement them.

Those fees have been the same for more than a decade, and Minnesota's Game and Fish Fund is expected to be in debt by 2013 if nothing changes.

Anglers and hunters have voiced support for the increase.

He said Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, likely influenced Democrats to vote against the proposal. Bakk said Tuesday he was upset that conservation licenses, which are cheaper and put a lower cap on take limits, were eliminated as part of the bill.

Senate author Bill Ingebrigtsen said the governor did not follow through on the issue.


"Unfortunately, either the governor did not communicate this importance to his own party members or they have instead decided employ obstructionism and do-nothing political strategy," the Alexandria Republican said Wednesday.

Koenen takes office

Lyle Koenen took the oath to become a Minnesota state senator Wednesday, taking the seat vacated with the death of veteran lawmaker Gary Kubly.

"Welcome Lyle Koenen, welcome aboard," Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said shortly after the Senate went into session.

Sitting at Kubly's old desk, Koenen stood and accepted applause from his new colleagues.

Koenen, a Clara City Democrat, has served in the House since 2003. He was elected to the Senate in a special vote to replace Kubly, a Granite City Democrat who died of complications related to Lou Gehrig's disease.

With Koenen moving from the House to Senate, that leaves the House one representative short for the rest of the session, with 133 members instead of the normal 134. Gov. Mark Dayton does not plan to call a special election for Koenen's House seat. It will be filled in the November general election.

Nuclear waste storage supported

The Senate unanimously supported a resolution encouraging the federal government to take action on interim storage of nuclear waste.

"This is an extremely important federal issue," bill author Sen. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said. "It's not something the states can do on their own."

The federal government is supposed to collect and store nuclear waste, but has not been doing so.

"Even if you prefer not to have nuclear power in our energy mix, the waste needs to be dealt with," Koch said.

Taxpayers have been paying to fund the collection.

"Minnesotans sent over $600 million with interest to Washington, D.C., and what have we gotten in return? Nothing," Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, said. Prairie Island nuclear plant, one of two in the state, is in his community.

Though support for the resolution was unanimous, some lawmakers took the opportunity to promote other power sources, such as wind or solar.

"What we need are other options for our energy," Sen. Mary Jo McGuire, DFL-Falcon Heights, said. "Other options that don't produce this kind of waste."

Danielle Nordine and Don Davis report for Forum Communications Co.

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