Ballpark bill delayed in House

Ballpark bill delayed in House

ST. PAUL -- The Twins ballpark bill was stymied by legislative gridlock late Monday night when the House Committee on Local Government delayed a vote on the bill after nearly eight hours of deliberation, but there was one significant outcome of Monday's meeting -- the committee voted down an attempt to add a referendum to the bill.

After three hours of public testimony on Monday, with both sides of the debate represented by the same groups, advocates and opponents for the bill as in previous meetings, the committee began debating amendments to the bill proposed by committee members.

The most controversial amendment of the night, proposed by Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis), would have attached a referendum to the bill. The Twins and Hennepin County have said from the start that a referendum would be a deal-killer, as it would add time and therefore expense to the process and invalidate all financial agreements in the proposal. After an additional half-hour of debate on the referendum, a roll call vote of 10-9 struck down the amendment.

The committee deliberated over 24 different amendments, at least 10 of which were offered by Rep. Ann Lenczewski (DFL-Bloomington), who during the testimony said she likely wouldn't support the bill in the House but wanted to "fix" as much of the language as she could in case it passes.

Among the amendments that passed, most dealt with the language surrounding the ballpark authority, the five-person board that would oversee the construction and operation of the ballpark. Lenczewski said she had prepared at least 32 amendments, the majority of which had not been offered by midnight, when committee chair Rep. Mark Olson (R-Big Lake) brought the meeting to a close and scheduled its resumption after Tuesday's House session.

The committee will reconvene Tuesday after the House's general session, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., to finish the debate and cast a vote on the ballpark bill. At least two more House committees need to pass the bill before the full House can vote on the proposal, which would authorize Hennepin County to levy a countywide .15 percent sales tax to construct a new home for the Twins. Meanwhile, the Senate could begin deliberations as soon as Wednesday.

But both bodies would have to pass the bill by the end of the current legislative session, which is set to adjourn on May 23, making every hour critical, and Monday's delay even more frustrating for stadium advocates.

If Local Government sends the bill forward on Tuesday, it will go to the Taxes Committee, which is where last year's ballpark bill was derailed by a split vote. The Taxes Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to deliberate the state's role in gambling, but could hear the ballpark bill as early as Wednesday.

Monday night's meeting opened with a pair of pinch-hitters, Reps. Tony Sertich (DFL-Chisholm) and Doug Magnus (R-Slayton), filling in for the House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Brad Finstad (R-New Ulm), who was attending the birth of his first child. Sertich pointed out that he was not just a pinch-hitter, but a switch-hitter as well, a Democrat filling in for a Republican, further emphasizing the bipartisan support for the bill.

Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat discussed the specifics of the proposed site -- the Rapid Park location in Minneapolis' Warehouse District -- and Twins president Dave St. Peter highlighted the details of the ballpark itself, which he said would "take the best aspects" of such historic venues as Chicago's Wrigley Field and Boston's Fenway Park, and new ballparks in Baltimore and Denver.

Patrick Donnelly is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.