House Speaker Kurt Zellers took the state Capitol by surprise this week by helping unveil a new, last-minute funding plan for a Minnesota Vikings stadium.
Among those caught by surprise was Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, the chief House author of the stadium proposal that had already cleared a number of House committees. Lanning, a member of Zellers’ own party, had been the stadium point person in the Republican-controlled House for more than a year.
But then Zellers, in another sudden reversal, announced with House Majority Leader Matt Dean on Thursday that they were dropping the new plan. To make things even more interesting, Zellers said he intended to put Lanning’s plan for the $1 billion stadium up for a vote on Monday -- but would not himself vote for it.
So what does Lanning think of Zellers after all of this?
“All along, he’s clearly made it clear that he’s not going to be a cheerleader” for the stadium plan backed by Lanning, Gov. Mark Dayton and the Vikings, said Lanning. “I’m not surprised. I really didn’t expect him to vote for the bill. Each one [of us] has to make their own judgment, and live with the consequences.”
But Lanning said the he was surprised that Zellers, who said he wanted to help the state’s charities obtain tax relief, opposed a stadium plan that would fund the state’s $398 million stadium share by allowing electronic bingo and pull tabs for charities in Minnesota’s bars and restaurants. Charities had in general favored the idea.
“The element that’s a little surprising is that he was an advocate along the way for this lawful gambling, electronic pull tab [proposal], and wanting to help the charities,” said Lanning. “And this bill helps the charities.
“For him to now come out against it, when he wanted that to happen” is puzzling, Lanning added.