Ballpark bill advances to next committee

Ballpark bill advances to next committee

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Twins fans have waited 10 years for their dreams of a new ballpark to come to fruition, so Monday night's delay was just par for the course. But Tuesday brought more signs of promise, as the House Committee on Local Government voted 12-7 to pass the new ballpark bill through to the next committee.

After nearly eight hours of deliberation on Monday, the committee adjourned without a vote, and reconvened on Tuesday to finish discussing the last group of amendments before voting on the bill. The proposal now advances to the Taxes Committee, which could hear testimony as soon as Wednesday. If it passes through Taxes, it then moves to its steepest hurdle, the Ways and Means Committee, which derailed last year's ballpark bill with a split vote.

However, committee chair Rep. Mark Olson (R-Big Lake) cautioned that even if the ballpark bill clears all necessary committees, there's no guarantee it will be heard on the House floor.

"Only if all the work is done," Olson said. "All the omnibus finance bills are still out there -- taxes, health and human services, education, state government finance, transportation, [agriculture] finance."

Asked how much work was left to do on the spending bills, Olson said, "It varies with each one. The targets are not yet set between the House and Senate, and that's why I've always recommended we pass the tax bill first. Once we get that issue off the table, it's easier to decide how to spend everything, rather than trying to fight over how and what at the same time."

Still, a victory is a victory, and stadium proponents are glad to take them, no matter how long they take.

"We go on," said Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat. "We had some changes. Some of the amendments actually help it. It looks like there's some work we have to do with the City of Minneapolis, but we'll do that, so we're confident. We feel good."

The amendments passed in the Local Government Committee dealt primarily with the makeup of the five-person ballpark authority, which would oversee the construction and operation of the ballpark. Opat said Hennepin County and the Twins would work with the City of Minneapolis and the State to alleviate any concerns.

"We'll need some latitude to make this a good project and make it work for the city, work for the team and work for everybody," Opat said. "But any time powers are granted to a board that's not elected, people get nervous, and I understand that."

Up next in the House is the Taxes Committee, and the Senate also could begin debating the bill in committee as soon as Wednesday. The Senate generally waits until bills have moved deeper into the House committee process before it takes any action.

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