Stadium Bill Passes Senate

After a whirlwind of activity at the Minnesota State Senate Tuesday, a showdown is coming in a conference committee that could end up approving or voting down stadium proposals for three Minnesota sports teams.

In what one state legislator described as a "train wreck" on the horizon, the Minnesota Legislature is going to have a conference committee hammer out the numerous differences between a bill in the House of Representatives and another in the Senate after senators voted by the narrowest of margins to approved a three-stadium funding plan Tuesday.

The Senate passed the stadium vote by a margin of just 34-32 for a plan that includes a Vikings stadium, as well as deals for the Twins and the Gophers. In all, $1.6 billion would be funded for the stadiums and, at this point, would include a referendum vote of all voters in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area. Many detractors to the bill say a referendum will be a deal-killer for the stadiums, including Twins officials and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- who reiterated Tuesday he won't sign a bill that includes a referendum.

The stadium issue has become distinctly political. Democrats, some political pundits point out, are trying to force Pawlenty to sign off on raising taxes -- a difficult task considering he is in an election year. The author of the Senate bill is Steve Kelley, who is expected to challenge Pawlenty in the gubernatorial race in November.

As one of the authors of the bills in question, Kelley will sit on the 10-member conference committee, which most believe will likely fall down party lines. A vote on a final bill could come as early as next Monday. The Legislature is expected to convene on or before May 22.

* The Saints have been given permission to shop Michael Bennett to the Dolphins. The Saints signed Bennett to a $4.5 million, two-year deal in March, but with the drafting of Reggie Bush, Bennett has become trade bait.
* Onterrio Smith is expected to sign with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL later this week.

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