The return of a racino proposal, attached to a minor education bill Friday on a bipartisan 10-4 vote in the Senate Finance Committee, shows how unpredictable the final phase of the two-year legislative cycle can be. The last train is about to leave the station, and all's fair for those who are desperate to clamber aboard.
Racino had already been voted down this year in a different Senate panel. It returned in a friendlier committee with a popular purpose and a powerful patron. Sponsored by Senate finance chair Claire Robling, a racino amendment was attached to an education bill to accelerate repayment of last year's $750 million school aid payment delay, a.k.a. "the shift."
Another bill to speed the shift's repayment has cleared more legislative hurdles. But it would draw down about half of the state's skimpy reserve funds, and that's not likely to win Gov. Mark Dayton's favor.
The casino-at-the-racetracks idea still faces long odds (pardon the gambling metaphor), with opposition among anti-gambling legislators in both parties. But it presents a new potential speed-bump in a session that seems a long way from wrapping up its work before Easter, which Senate Majority Leader David Senjem said Friday is still his goal.
Before legislators can claim with straight faces that they've completed the people's business, they need to get a major bonding bill into and out of conference committee, and try to get two very different tax bills into a form that Dayton will sign. They also have to decide whether they will accept vetoes or make adjustments Dayton desires on a host of other measures, including new evaluation requirements governing teacher layoffs.
That's not to mention the push to build a new home for the Minnesota Vikings. It has stalled, but could spring into motion again anytime -- just like racino. As my late friend and mentor Gerry Nelson of the Associated Press taught me more than 30 years ago, "Nothing's ever dead until they've been home three days."