To the editor,
Two bills that rank among the governor's top priorities this session failed to get enough support from his party mates in the House and were voted down this week.
First, a Vikings stadium bill was stopped in a House committee by a 9-6 vote. The Republicans voted 5-4 in favor of moving the bill to the next committee, while the Democrats voted 5-1 against advancing it. Interestingly, at least one of those minority members who voted "no" voted "yes" for both Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium bills in previous years.
A number of us had reservations about the stadium bill as it was crafted, but wanted the proposal to advance through our committee so the Tax Committee could have a chance to address those concerns.
My hope was to ultimately get the bill to the House floor where the full body could vote on it, instead of allowing a 15-member committee decide its fate.
I asked some direct questions in the committee hearing and I have been criticized for this. It was important to me to get things out in the open on behalf of the people I represent and would do the same thing again today.
The stadium bill needed bipartisan support to advance and that did not happen. Now, the Legislature is scrambling to see if another path is available to bringing a stadium proposal to the floor. The Senate is scheduled to conduct hearings for three separate stadium bills today.
Another proposal, one to restore the Capitol, was voted down on the House floor Thursday. It was a four-year, $221 million bonding bill that would preserve our crumbling 107-year-old Capitol.
This bill got mixed up in political gamesmanship. In the end, all but one Republican present on the floor voted in favor of the bill, but an overwhelming majority of Democrats voted against it. Bipartisan support was necessary because bonding projects require a three-fifths majority to pass. The minority just did not put up enough votes to make passage possible.
This turn of events is disappointing and it will be interesting to see what happens with the Capitol restoration. In medical terms, many aspects of the building are on life support because our state has procrastinated taking necessary action. Experts say we run the risk of never being able to catch up on necessary work by not acting now. At the very least, delaying this project will only cost taxpayers more in the long run.
Our Capitol is truly the people’s building but, ironically, it lacks people demanding it be rehabilitated; there is no natural constituency due to its location. There also are no lobbyists banging on doors demanding we preserve the icon of our state.
What does it say about us if we let the symbol of Minnesota crumble? I already have a football-sized chunk of marble that fell from a Capitol wall. How much more deterioration has to take place fall before we can put politics aside and fix it?
The intent has been to adjourn April 30, but it could happen even earlier. I will keep you updated as things unfold before the session ends. Things are still in a state of flux and bills like these can come back into play again at a moment's notice.
Rep. Dean Urdahl