By Don Davis and Danielle Nordine
Signs indicate the end of the 2012 Minnesota legislative session will come very soon.
The Legislature debated tax provisions this afternoon and negotiators on a Vikings stadium plan met in private with hopes of bringing the bill up later this afternoon or overnight.
This afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, told senators not running again to have their traditional retirement speeches ready in the next “24 hours.”
Senjem also called a committee meeting to deal with a resolution needed for adjournment.
“We have the stadium conference committee working,” Senjem said, even though there has been no public notice and reporters who tried to listen to the meeting were told to leave because it was private.
The Senate chaplain gave a hint that the end is near, opening the session saying it was “the last hours of session.”
After today, the Legislature has one more day to pass bills under a constitutional limitation. However, the governor could call a special session if lawmakers do not finish work.
House Tax Chairman Greg Davids, R-Preston, took up the first of two tax-related bills at 2 p.m. and said in an interview he would expect the stadium bill to arrive on the House floor later in the day or overnight.
The Legislature defines a “day” as ending at 7 a.m., and lawmakers often go to the limit. After they adjourn, retiring members give speeches, often very emotional.
Republican leaders either were out of public view or not talking about whether a Vikings stadium bill could receive final votes today before lawmakers head home for the year. It and the tax bills were the only remaining business.
House and Senate negotiators met with legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton aides this morning in a private State Office building gathering across the street from the Capitol building.
Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, did not like those private meetings. In a tweet, he said they might break the state open meetings law.
But House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, told reporters who tried to enter the meeting that it was private and there was no quorum present.
The issue of public stadium meetings was part of a heated Senate discussion late Tuesday.
Some members accused bill author Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, and others of developing the plan behind closed doors.
They said they did not get the chance to include their ideas in the plan.
“I think everyone wants to build a stadium,” Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, said. “I think people have a lot of different ideas on how to get it done.”
Howe said that when members came up with new ideas “we were told ‘absolutely no.’”
Some also said the stadium construction bill is being pushed through the Legislature.
“We’ve been raced,” Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said. “The first debate was, what, four weeks after deadline?”
Others, such as Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, worried that despite all the discussion the bill that come out of a joint House-Senate conference committee will be very similar to the original bill.
Rosen said many times the talks, which went on for months, were open to any members that wanted to participate. She called them “transparent,” although reporters and the public could not attend.
“Next time … I’ll send a personal invitation” to lawmakers to be involved in similar discussions, she joked.
The reason she encouraged members to stick with the original plan is because it was palatable to all the parties involved, she said.
“I think, members, you have to step back for a second and respect the work that was done by the work group,” she said. “We worked together for hours on this bill and it was a compromise.”