The Legislative Commission on Minnesota Sports Facilities hasn't exactly been a hotbed of stadium activity. And its going to stay that way, at least for the short term. The panel has cancelled its second scheduled meeting -- for a second time.
The 12 member joint House and Senate committee met all of once, and set to battling over control of the body almost immediately. The House lost out, and the body elected a pair of Senators, Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, and Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneaplis, to chair the committee. They got a half-hour update on the stadium on April 2 and never convened again during the legislative session.
The panel never took on the floundering finances from the original stadium bill, and never addressed the shift of the biggest chunk of state debt service -- from electronic gambling taxes to new corporate taxes. It wasn't clear what they were meeting about next week with an agenda "TBD" but the leadership struggles apparently continued, according to email obtained by MPR.
House Speaker Paul Thissen confirmed the disagreement in an interview, and noted the House's unhappiness that no members of that body had been elected to the commission's leadership. (Inver Grove Heights DFLer Joe Atkins was nominated, but lost in the commission voting in April.) Thissen said it is fine that the leadership alternates between the two legislative bodies, and starts with the Senate. But he said he also expected the commission to appoint a vice chair from the House.
The kerfuffle aparently stemmed from an email from Thissen, suggesting that commission "respect the discretion of the House in its choice" about who would take that vice chairmanship.
"The whole commission, not just the Senate, made the decision to elect us originally," wrote Rosen, in an email responding to Thissen. "Only allowing members from the House to vote on a Vice Chair would not allow the Senate to have a voice in this decision."
Thissen said, in an interview, that wasn't what he meant, and that he wasn't trying to cut the Senate out of the loop.
"Of course the Senate can vote in that decision," he said. "I think, from my perspective, this has been blown beyond any realistic proportion."
Thissen said he thinks the House and Senate will amicably resolve their differences. "I'm hopeful that the commission can go forward. It has a lot of important work to do."
That may be, although it could very well be that the new Vikings stadium will already be underway by the time the commission meets again. The last previously scheduled meeting for the commission was May 9. That was cancelled, too.
Here's the email trail: