05/04/2004 4:49 PM ET
Ballpark proposal moves forward
House Taxes Committee gives green light
By Patrick Donnelly / Special to MLB.com
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Twins' hopes for a new, outdoor ballpark took an important step forward on Tuesday when the House Taxes Committee voted by a narrow margin to move the bill forward in the legislative process.
The bill passed by a 15-13 vote, a good indication of the struggle stadium proponents figured they'd face in getting through the Taxes Committee.
"We expected it to be close, and some people were predicting that it probably wouldn't pass, so we're glad it made it," said Jerry Bell, president of Twins Sports Inc.
The next step for the bill in the House of Representatives is the Ways and Means Committee, while in the Senate, the State and Local Government Operations Committee will debate the Senate's version of the bill on Wednesday.
The bill's sponsor in the House, Rep. Doug Stang (R-Cold Spring), said the issue could be on the Ways and Means Committee's agenda as soon as Thursday, and if it passes the bill on to the Rules Committee, the final language could be introduced on the floor of the House of Representatives as soon as the middle of next week.
The timeline is a concern with the end of the session looming May 17. If the House and Senate pass their bills, a conference committee would then hammer out differences and bring the final language back to each branch for final approval before it's passed on to the desk of Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Tuesday's vote held few surprises, but one development that has the potential to cause trouble for the stadium is the requirement of a referendum if a host community wants to use a new tax on food, liquor or lodging to fund the construction of a new facility.
"We have some serious concerns about that," Bell said. "One is the delay, which can increase the overall costs of the project. Another is that only a small part of the state will be voting on an issue that pertains to a statewide asset."
Stang echoed that concern, but expressed confidence in the overall direction of the bill.
"It's always difficult to pass a referendum with regards to funding a stadium, but we think it's something we can work through," Stang said. "There really was nothing added to the bill that changes the process and moves it from workable to unworkable."
Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.