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Twins stadium bill may get vote on House floor
by Robert Whereatt

The chief House sponsor of a Twins stadium bill will try to revive the moribund legislation with a parliamentary move on the House floor Wednesday or Thursday.

Rep. Harry Mares, R-White Bear Lake, said he will push for a floor vote to transfer his bill to the Committee on Taxes from the Local Government Committee, where it was tabled April 11, cutting off debate.

House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, who last month called the bill "pretty much dead," indicated he will not use his powers to thwart the effort. "I would not mind there being a vote on the House floor on the bill," Sviggum said Monday.

Taxes Chairman Ron Abrams, R-Minnetonka, said that if the House votes to send the bill to his committee, he will give it a hearing.

"I would expect to get to it no later than Thursday of next week," he said. "I'm not going to be the one who prevents them from voting on it."

The bill would finance a 42,000-seat, $300 million open-air stadium with the help of a $140 million interest-free state loan. The team and private sources would put up an additional $150 million and receive $10 million in sales tax exemptions for construction materials.

The $140 million loan, which the Twins would guarantee, would come from a surplus in the Workers' Compensation Assigned Risk Plan, a state-run insurance program for employers who can't get that coverage. However, part of that surplus already has been tapped for other projects by House Republicans.

Abrams said he also will consider a bill to create a 17-member task force to study joint football stadium needs of the Minnesota Vikings and the University of Minnesota. The Vikings have proposed a $450 million to $500 million stadium on the university's Minneapolis campus. The team and the National Football League would contribute $150 million, leaving a gap of $300 million to $350 million.

In the Senate, the Twins stadium bill has been sitting in the Committee on Taxes. Chairman Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said in March that he expected the House to take action before his committee would look at the legislation.

Republicans who control the House and DFLers who control the Senate have said they do not want the stadium issue to dominate the session as it did in 1997. Both houses are passing major money bills this week, giving the appearance that more important public business is being addressed first.

"Do you believe in miracles?" asked Mares, when talking about the prospects of his bill. "Yes, I do."