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Ballpark bill on hold in St. Paul

Ballpark bill on hold in St. Paul

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The Twins are in hurry-up-and-wait mode at the Capitol, as legislative leaders have put the new ballpark bill on the back burner until other big-ticket budget items can be addressed in the special session.

Gridlock has become the norm in St. Paul, as the business of running the state has become increasingly bogged down by partisan disagreements. Twins fans and stadium supporters are left to hope that the new ballpark will not become a casualty of this political discord.

"It's very frustrating, but there's nothing we can do about it," said Jerry Bell, President of Twins Sports, Inc. "They told us that their focus would be on getting an agreement on budget and transportation bills before they take on the stadium bill, so we're in a holding pattern. We expect that to happen, but we don't know when."

The bill has passed through two committees in the House of Representatives, and will have to pass through at least two more before the House can vote on it. Rep. Brad Finstad (R-New Ulm), the House sponsor of the bill, said he's optimistic that the progress already made in the House is a sign of things to come.

"I've heard a lot of support [on Capitol Hill] -- a lot of people are very excited about the proposal and want to see it get done in the special session," Finstad said. "They don't want to see it linger on another year.

"I feel pretty confident in the House that we're going to be able to move it and get it passed," Finstad said. "The Senate's got to do the same, but I have confidence in them that they'll get it done."

The Twins are currently tweaking the language of the bill to reflect a few minor revisions and amendments made by the first two House committees. A spokesman for Sen. Steve Kelley (DFL-Hopkins), the bill's sponsor in the Senate, said on Monday that once the Twins send a revised version of the bill back to the Senate, it will be sent to the Senate Government Operations committee to begin the process.

However, nothing will happen with the bill until the legislative bodies make significant progress toward passing the bills that will keep the state running, which is why they're in the special session in the first place.

"It all depends on how long it will take to get the budget targets figured out between the House, Senate and Governor," Finstad said. "The public has told us they want this stadium deal to get done, but not before we pass a K-12 education bill. We're going to hold off on scheduling more committees until the Senate moves on it and we have the budget targets."

The Twins have often emphasized the importance of the bill passing this spring, because 2006 is an election year, when politicians are often less willing to cast votes in favor of new spending projects, a position Finstad understands.

"Every day that gets closer to an election, people get squeamish about taking positions on controversial issues," Finstad said. "But we're elected to address the issues and take a vote, no matter what part of the election cycle it is."

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

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