Hopes dimmed this weekend that the 2012 legislative session will adjourn on Monday.
Relations between Republicans and DFLers frayed on Saturday when Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL legislative leaders held a press avail to hector House and Senate Republican leadership to bring the Vikings stadium bill up for floor votes. Calling the matter “imperative,” Dayton said, “There is no other way out of here honestly and honorably without voting yes or no on it.”
Republicans responded that Dayton bypassed them in stadium talks and aired his complaints directly in the press. House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, cast Dayton as moving on a single-track approach on the stadium and said his press conference squelched progress toward the bonding bill and tax bill.
“It’s fair to say,” Dean said, “we’ve been working on infrastructure, bonding bill, tax bill. The governor’s number one priority obviously is the stadium. …We would like to be able to talk about all three at the same time. The governor has broken off all negotiations. If he was serious about any of the three, he would probably be talking to us instead of holding a press conference.”
DFL Minority Leader Paul Thissen joined Dayton at the press conference to indicate that House Democrats would put up 34 stadium votes, or half the total necessary to win House passage for the bill. He characterized the gesture as a matter of meeting an “obstacle” thrown into the path of the stadium bill by House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who suggested early in session that passing a stadium bill would take 34 DFL votes and 34 Republican votes. He called on House Republican to hold a vote Saturday.
“Stop tip-toeing around and stop the games. Put up the Vikings bill for an up-or-down vote so we can see where the people of Minnesota’ state Legislature stands,” Thissen said.
Dayton and Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk seconded the call for a Saturday House floor vote.
Bakk, however, auspiciously refused to commit more than 12 Senate DFL votes to the stadium push, insisting that he had not yet polled his caucus on their views of the bill. He added that Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem had not yet asked DFLers to commit a specific number of votes.
Bakk also implied his caucus can take credit for the bill’s survival to date because DFLers put up more votes than Republicans in its first committee stop in the Senate Local Government Committee.
“Frankly I think the Republican leadership hasn’t done the kind of lifting they could have done starting in that very first committee to move this bill along,” Bakk said.
The tone of the press conference, in which major pending bills regarding bonding and taxes were barely mentioned, lent credence to widely circulating reports that the Vikings stadium bill is the only major piece of legislation on which there is still movement.
“If they get to the point where they’re serious about the tax bill and the bonding bill, then we can find a half-way point for both. Until then, it’s just not possible,” Dayton said.
Republicans on Saturday evening moved into high gear on the tax bill and rolled out and adopted the entire omnibus bill in a matter of hours.
On the stadium issue, when asked whether he would accept a substitution of user-fee-based revenues for some or all of the charitable gaming proceeds targeted as funding sources for the stadium, Dayton said, “Anything’s possible. The Legislature has the prerogative at this point.” The governor intimated that he would be receptive to any funding plan that was financially sound.
While speaking to reporters Saturday evening, Zellers suggested that Monday, which will be the next time both legislative chambers meet in floor session, won’t be the last day of the 2012 session.
“If we need an extra day to have, whether it’s the tax bill negotiated, if its some of the bonding projects that are, you know, is it this one, is it that one, we’ll assess that when we get to that point. We clearly are looking towards an April 30 adjournment. If we’re going to play games with bills and vote counts and that kind of stuff instead of negotiating with each other, that’s their choice.”