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Capitol girds for (very) late-night stadium decision

Rep. Jeanne Poppe decides to vote yes; Kurt Zellers’ KFAN remarks; ‘nice guys’ guy arrested; MN’s Fortune 500s; and more.

Prior to the actual vote on the stadium, the PiPress has a collection of tweets, Facebook posts and other expressions of vox populi. A sample:

“Vikings stadium vote today. I NEED football in my state lets not be stupid. ❤��”

mnleg Rep Joe Atkins makes stadium prediction -> ‘PREDICTION: STADIUM PASSES THE HOUSE WITH 71 VOTES’. via his weekly email update.”

“Now that I’ve actually looked for tickets and found out how freakin’ expensive they are, I no longer feel I should pay more taxes to build a new Vikings Stadium. Let the owners and players give up a bit of their multimillions.”

“Periodic ‘build it, build it’ chants coming from House gallery. So far, Speaker Zellers letting it go, but looks annoyed.”

For the Forum papers Don Davis reports, “ Debate on a $975 million stadium was not expected to begin until mid-afternoon or later, but Minnesotans clad in purple Vikings garb or hard hats began building a crowd when the Capitol doors opened for the day. ‘This is first and foremost about jobs, putting Minnesotans back to work,’ Dayton shouted to those gathered under the dome. … Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, wants to put user fees on everything in the stadium, ranging from broadcast rights to concession sales. But Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley said the Vikings cannot accept the concept.

Lawmakers are expected to try to amend the stadium bill with dozens of changes. That could expand debate to more than 12 hours. If the House passes it, which could come well past midnight, it would go to the Senate where another lengthy debate is expected. It is not clear when the Senate would take it up.”

For the Rochester Post-Bulletin, Heather Carlson writes, “Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, is among those lawmakers who had been on the fence but now plans to vote for the stadium. She said she met privately with the governor more than a week ago, and he convinced her that it is important the stadium deal get done. ‘I wanted to get the stadium off the agenda because I want a bonding bill, and I am going to be one of the 34 (Democrats) to make that happen,’ she said. But Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, is among those unhappy with the stadium bill. He said he will attempt to amend the bill so that the state share is funded with user fees instead of gambling. ‘The bill as it currently stands, I don’t think, has a chance,’ he said.”

The GleanFor MPR, Tim Nelson is saying, “The Vikings think they may be within striking distance of winning their decade-long push for a stadium to replace the Metrodome. Team vice president Lester Bagley said a weekend lobbying campaign seems to have shifted the momentum their way, and perhaps won over a few new legislative votes. ‘What’s happened in the last couple of weeks — and especially in the last few days — is the mood and the push by the public,’ Bagley said. ‘It’s no longer that if you’re a freshman in a tough district you shouldn’t vote for it, just to stay out of the fray. Now it’s if you’re in a tough district and you’re a freshman, you need to vote for it. Because everybody’s pushing — let’s get this done.’ But it’s not clear how the votes will fall. Language on the actual proposal wasn’t finalized and posted on the House website until over the weekend. It has the public paying about 56 percent of the up-front costs, mostly with taxes on new electronic pull tabs.

Nelson colleague Tom Scheck focuses on the canary in the coal mine legislators. “The public is expected to watch the final vote closely. Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, said last week that this is the type of issue that voters will remember in November. Polls show most people want private funding, not public taxpayer money, to pay for the stadium. Combine those issues and you have one of the toughest votes that lawmakers will take this session. … Rep. King Banaian, R-St. Cloud, won a close contest in 2010 (recount close) and was on the fence about the stadium bill in November despite questioning the economics of building a new stadium.

“Rep. Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea, passed once on a vote in the House Government Operations Committee (he eventually voted no). It’s a signal that he’s conflicted on the issue. He barely won in 2010 and is being targeted by Democrats. Other Republicans being targeted by Democrats include Rep. Bruce Vogel, R-Willmar, Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, and Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau.

“Rep. Kory Kath, DFL-Owatonna, and Rep. Patti Fritz, DFL-Faribault, are GOP targets. Watch to see whether DFL leaders try to protect them from a controversial vote.”

Neil de Mause, at Field of Schemes, tunes his national readership into House Speaker Kurt Zellers‘ more or less classic interview with KFAN’s Dan Barreiro last week, and his attempt to clarify whatever it was he was trying to say. Writes de Mause, “… as we anticipate what’s sure to be a crazy day, we can enjoy the unintentional comedy of house speaker Kurt Zellers, who on Friday tried to explain that he “misspoke” the day before when he told a radio interviewer that while he wasn’t going to vote for the bill, ‘hopefully it will pass and hopefully the governor will have a chance to sign the bill.’ As clarifications go, though, Zellers’ was lacking a bit in the clarity department (transcript courtesy of the Star Trib):

Reporter 1: ‘Can you explain what you ‘misspoke’ on? Do you not hope the bill will pass? Or do you hope the bill will pass?
Zellers: ‘I said what I said. I made a mistake. I can admit it.’
Reporter 1: ‘Right but what was the mistake’?
Reporter 2: ‘You actually don’t want it to pass, is that what you’re saying’?
Zellers: ‘No.’
Reporter 1: ‘You want it to pass’?
Zellers: ‘I’m not going to make any more mistakes.’
Reporter 1: ‘Right. But you said you misspoke and you made a mistake. I’m trying to figure out what you think was the mistake. That’s an honest question.’
Zellers: ‘I corrected it.’
Reporter 1: ‘So what’s the correction? … Can you explain?’
Zellers: ‘I said that the Vikings are an asset I want to see them stay. And what was misinterpreted was that I wanted the bill (to) pass but I wasn’t going to vote for it. I said I can’t vote for the bill. I want to see the Vikings stay I think they’re an asset, I’ve said that many times.’ ” Isn’t that an old Abbott and Costello bit?

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There are other things to build besides a stadium. Jennifer Brooks of the Strib reports on that bonding bill that some legislators have shaved down to a shadow of its former self. “ ‘Better something than nothing,’ said Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, as the House began debate on a bill that is probably bigger than some members would like and smaller than others would have liked. If passed, it would fund construction and preservation projects across the state. The half-billion dollar capital-projects bill expanded over the weekend from an earlier total of $496 million. … Over the weekend, negotiators gave the U of M system an extra $10 million and reduced MnSCU funding by $12 million, narrowing the funding gap to $64 million and $132 million respectively.”

Remember the wheelchair-bound attorney who got off with 15 years of probation for his role in the so-called “nice guys” prostitution racket? He was arrested again. Emily Gurnon of the PiPress writes, “John Paul St. Marie, 68, was discovered by his Ramsey County probation officer to be accessing prostitution-escort service websites and emailing suspected prostitutes, according to a Monday, May 7, notice from the Minneapolis police.

He was sentenced in the initial case in January 2011 by Ramsey County District Judge Rosanne Nathanson.
According to the statement:

“Police learned through the websites and emails that St. Marie was writing to ‘an individual that was involved in prostitution-related activities,’ and that he arranged a meeting with a suspected prostitute for 6 p.m. April 19 at the Crowne Plaza Northstar Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.” So what next? Thirty years’ probation?

Despite a bit of slippage, Minnesota’s Fortune 500 cred is still better than average. Tom Webb at the PiPress reports, “Most of Minnesota’s corporate giants have slid a few notches in the latest Fortune 500 ranking, released Monday, May 7.

“Of the 19 Minnesota-based corporations on the new list, 13 have moved down in the rankings since last year. One was unchanged: the state’s largest, UnitedHealth Group. Five companies moved up the rankings. Still, Minnesota remains a corporate powerhouse, home to 19 large corporations on the list. Only nine states boast more: California (53), Texas (52), New York (50), Illinois (32), Ohio (28), Virginia (24), Pennsylvania (23), New Jersey (21) and Michigan (20).”