Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers emerged from his office Wednesday afternoon, saying he'd like the full House to vote on the Minnesota Vikings stadium bill "sooner rather than later."
As he walked briskly to the House floor, with reporters chasing after him, he said the House could take a final vote on the stadium bill as soon as tonight.
"Partially, it depends on whether [negotiators] come to a final agreement," Zellers said. House Majority Leader Matt Dean said the House may take up the stadium bill Wednesday night at 10 p.m.
Update: Just a few hours before the meeting was to begin, the Legislature informed the public that there would be a 9 p.m. conference committee to discuss the bill.
The House and Senate have approved significantly different measures, parting ways particularly on what they expect from the Vikings. The measure that passed the House Monday night would have the team spend $532 million, the Senate would have the team spend $452 million for the $1 billion Minneapolis stadium. Publicly the Vikings have only agreed to spend $427 million toward building their new home.
The Republican leaders' comments capped a day when key lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton staffers shuttled in and out of closed door meetings in the State Office Building.
The negotiators offered little comment on the content of their talks but each has been heavily involved in the Vikings stadium talks.
Among those in the private meetings: House and Senate Vikings bill sponsors Morrie Lanning and Julie Rosen, Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commissioner Ted Mondale, Business Partnership executive director Charlie Weaver, Chamber President David Olson, Zellers, as well as the lawmakers who are charged with working out differences between the House and Senate versions of the stadium bill.
"The conferees were never in all (in the same room) at the same time," said Zellers.
According to the Legislature's rules, when a majority of lawmakers on a committee -- such as the panel charged with crafting the stadium bill -- are meeting and making decisions, their sessions are supposed to be public.
But Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said that majority of committee members never assembled in one place.
"We're making sure we have not had a quorum," he said as he left one meeting. "You can count just like me."
The House and Senate are charged with policing themselves when it comes to open meeting laws.
Zellers said he is confident that the no open meeting rules were violated during the stadium discussions and the public would learn the details of the measure, which could have the state spend more than $500 million to build the pro-sports arena, before it is passed.
"I believe they will be fully informed by the time the vote comes up," Zellers said.
After the House and Senate passed different versions of the stadium bill this week, the Legislature has had no public meetings on the measure. According to the Legislature's rules, "All Conference Committees shall be open to the public. As much as practical, meetings of Conference Committees shall be announced as far in advance as possible, with the intent to provide a 24-hour notice, and actions taken shall be agreed upon in an open meeting. At an agreed upon hour the Conference Committee shall meet. "