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Lawmakers to consider charter provision of stadium bill

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: April 16, 2012 - 2:37 PM

State lawmakers will mull Monday night whether to ax a provision in the Vikings stadium bill that effectively nullifies a key section of the Minneapolis Charter.

That could have major implications over whether the stadium will face a citywide vote, per a 1997 charter amendment. The Minneapolis city attorney argues that a referendum isn't legally necessary, but the bill also assures that by overriding the charter altogether.

The amendment, which eliminates that language, will be discussed Monday night during a Government Operations and Elections hearing on the bill. It was posted online Monday afternoon.

The referendum question has been the most divisive factor for the Minneapolis City Council. The key swing vote, Sandy Colvin Roy, only signed on after City Attorney Susan Segal convinced her a referendum was not triggered.

Nixing the charter provision of the bill would place more weight on Segal's opinion, which has so far been limited to oral advice. Rybak said "I don't know" last week when asked whether she would issue a written opinion.

The amendment likely has an ally in Rep. Joyce Peppin, who chairs the Government Operations committee. Peppin said in January that she'd like to see a citywide vote on the stadium.

"I'd like to see a referendum if it involves taxpayer money, which it undoubtedly will," Peppin said.

The discussion boils down to three sentences in the Minneapolis charter, which were overwhelmingly approved on the 1997 ballot. They say the city cannot spend more than $10 million on a stadium without a citywide vote.

Segal argues that the vote isn't triggered since the sales taxes Rybak wants to use are actually controlled by the state. Critics dispute this claim, adding that it could invite lawsuits.

The bill currently make the legal debate moot, however, by including a passage called "Charter Limitations Not To Apply." Here's what it says:

43.26 Sec. 4. CHARTER LIMITATIONS NOT TO APPLY.
Any amounts expended, indebtedness or obligation incurred including, but not limited to the issuance of bonds, or actions taken by the city under this article are not deemed an expenditure or other use of city resources within the meaning of any law or charter limitation. The city may exercise any of its powers under this article to spend, borrow, tax, or incur any form of indebtedness or other obligation, for the improvement, including but not limited to, acquisition, development, construction, or betterment, of any public building, stadium, or other capital improvement project, without regard to any charter limitation or provision. Any tax exemption established under this article shall not be deemed an expenditure or other use of city resources within the meaning of any charter limitation.

Pictured: City Attorney Susan Segal

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