U Stadium bills advance in state House and Senate

Supporters hope one of three proposals will pass by the end of the session in May.

Megan Kadrmas

Three stadium bills made further progress within the House and Senate last week, leaving University officials and stadium supporters optimistic.

The Senate Higher Education Budget Division passed two bills March 28. On Wednesday a House version of one of the bills passed the House Capital Investment Committee. The bill is expected to go before a full House vote this week.

University officials remain hopeful a stadium bill will be approved by May 22, the end of this legislative session.

According to University officials and legislators, the passing of a stadium bill is close to reality.

First, however, the Senate bills go to the Senate Finance Committee. If either passes there, the next step likely will be the Senate floor.

If further amendments are made to these bills, they might need to visit more committees, said Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar.

According to Richard Pfutzenreuter, University vice president and chief financial officer, the University favors the House bill because it reflects the funding package the University created.

Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL- Minneapolis, is co-author of one of the bills in the Senate barring student fees from contributing to stadium funding and blocking corporations from stadium-naming rights. If these measures pass, more state money would be needed to make up the financial gap.

Some of the most notable changes to the bills last week involve financing. The House bill supported a student fee of $25 per semester, which is reduced from $50 per semester.

Pfutzenreuter also said he expected the House bill to pass a full floor vote this week.

In the Senate there is an alternative bill also being considered. It involves the state purchasing a parcel of UMore Park near Rosemount.

“I hear the term ‘win-win situation’ being used a lot and I think that is an apt description of what’s happening (with the UMore Park proposal),” Pfutzenreuter said.

Johnson is a co-author for each Senate bill.

“I want to signal to the Senate and to the public that I am very supportive of building a Gopher football stadium,” he said.

According to Johnson’s office, the public should see more action around stadium issues this month.

Pfutzenreuter met with Financial Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, to discuss the scheduling of the bills before the Finance Committee.

Cohen said both stadium bills will be heard by the committee before the session ends.

“We’re trying to figure out the Gophers, Twins and Vikings stadiums and to see what kind of package we might put together,” Johnson said. “We’re just taking one step back and kind of parking them temporarily in finance and tax committees.”

Overall, the University is content with the progress being made at the Capitol, Pfutzenreuter said.

The University is pleased the House found a way to reduce student fees without cutting the stadium budget, Pfutzenreuter said.

“Lowering student fees has been a priority of President (Bob) Bruininks from the outset,” he said.