Like much of the debate over a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, the first official airing of a stadium bill this spring came to a standoff.
A Ramsey County citizen panel has decided not to weigh in on a proposed Vikings stadium in Arden Hills — at least not directly. The county's charter commission turned back an effort Wednesday night to give voters more say on a key part of the stadium bill. But they also said residents ought to be able to put the matter to a vote later.
Opponents of a planned stadium in Arden Hills called a special meeting of the Ramsey County charter commission. They wanted to tell state officials not to exempt a planned stadium tax from a county-wide vote. The Vikings and stadium supporters consider the exemption a key part of a stadium bill introduced at the Capitol this spring.
But the charter commission instead passed a resolution saying it's not their place to officially weigh in on state policy.
Commissioner Peter Hendricks of St. Paul authored the statement.
"And if the state says we're giving the authority to a particular county to enact a local sales tax by a resolution that would not be subject to a referendum of the people, that's an issue that should be taken up with the state legislature, not with this body," Hendricks said.
The commission approved Hendricks' resolution by a 7-6 vote.
That almost ended the meeting. But opponents of a proposed half-percent county sales tax decided to put their original motion up for a vote anyway.
It also passed, by a much wider margin — although it was watered down in the end.
Commissioner A.L. Brown, also of St. Paul, said he still thought it important to send a message to county and state officials that referendum provisions in the county charter should not be discarded by the Legislature for political expedience.
The charter currently allows voters to overturn an ordinance passed by the seven-member elected county board.
"Now if they say you can vote on this, and you don't have to pass it by the people, because you can vote on it in the form of a resolution, that's what I take offense to," Brown said. "If they say you vote on it as an ordinance, but that ordinance isn't subject to a referendum, that I take offense to."
The substitute resolution simply expressed support for the county's referendum system.
The referendum issue has periodically surfaced since the county voted in February to negotiate with the Vikings on a potential stadium deal. In May, the team and county negotiators shook hands on a $1.1 billion proposal to construct a stadium on the site of the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant.
That deal has many obstacles. It hasn't been incorporated into a financing plan floated at the Capitol, and state officials say the figures don't add up on either the deal or the revenue.
The overall bill has been in limbo as Minneapolis, St. Paul, Ramsey and Hennepin County officials, as well as some lawmakers, have wrangled over where to put a new stadium and how to pay for it.