ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It took nearly seven more hours of meetings on Friday, but when it was done, Minnesota Twins fans were one important step closer to a new ballpark.
The House Tax Committee met from 10 a.m. CT until 5 p.m. at the State Office Building, discussing numerous amendments to the bill that would facilitate construction of a new Twins park. When the talking was done, the committee voted 15-13 to approve the bill and send it on to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Despite some minor changes to the bill made in the committee meeting, Twins officials said the plan is still very workable.
"We were lucky today," said Jerry Bell, president of Twins Sports, Inc. "We heard dozens of amendments, but there weren't any that were deal-breakers or any that will impede our drive to get a new ballpark built."
Committee members heard dozens of proposed amendments, ranging from financing plans and changes in current eminent domain law, to discussion seeking assurances that Twins games would remain available on radio statewide for free.
After all of the discussion, a bipartisan group of state representatives voted to move the bill along in the legislative process. Interviewed via phone during the Fox Sports North broadcast of Friday night's Twins game versus the White Sox, team president Dave St. Peter said that the bill may be heard before the full House of Representatives as early as next week.
In the Minnesota Senate, the bill is still awaiting a hearing in the Taxes Committee, meaning that there is still legislative work to be done before the bill would get to the desk of Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty for a signature. But Bell, for one, couldn't help but smile at the advances the bill has made in the past few days.
"It's been a good week," Bell said. "This is a difficult committee with a lot of senior members and a lot of strong opinion, so this is real progress."