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Baseball bill gets on base

SALEM -- A plan to build a major league baseball stadium in Portland took a big step forward Tuesday when backers used a surprise political maneuver to shake loose a stalled $150 million funding bill.
08/13/03
HARRY ESTEVE and JOHN HUNT

SALEM -- A plan to build a major league baseball stadium in Portland took a big step forward Tuesday when backers used a surprise political maneuver to shake loose a stalled $150 million funding bill.
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The move, called a "gut and stuff," in which one bill is substituted for another that has made better progress, gives the stadium proposal perhaps its best shot yet for success.

Backers said they could have final legislative approval within a week and send the bill to Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who is expected to sign it. Once that happens, they said, chances of bringing the Montreal Expos to Portland as soon as next year shoot up dramatically.

"If we get this bill, we're very confident that we will get a team," said Kevin Campbell, the main lobbyist for the bill.

Another lobbyist told a House member that he could all but guarantee the Expos would come to Portland if the stadium proposal goes forward. None of the other cities that have expressed interest in the team have made progress, said Alan Tresidder, who has helped persuade lawmakers to approve the funding bill.

One plan is to use PGE Park in Southwest Portland as a temporary home for the team during the 2004 season while a new stadium capable of holding big-league crowds is built elsewhere within the city. Several sites have been nominated.

But first, the state must approve a bonding method that would allow it to use income taxes generated by high-salaried professional ballplayers to pay the new stadium's construction costs.

That was the gist of House Bill 3606, which passed the House three months ago. Since then, the bill has languished in the Senate Rules Committee because there haven't been enough votes in the committee to approve it.

But supporters say they do have enough votes in the whole Senate to pass the bill if they can get it to the floor. Tuesday's action virtually ensures a Senate vote.

"We just want a fair shot at all 30 senators," said Art Sasse of the Oregon Stadium Campaign.

The new twist came during a hastily called meeting of the House Rules Committee and was shrouded in secrecy. Notice of the meeting came only minutes before it occurred.

Supporters said they were forced to act quickly to ensure the bill doesn't get lost in the final rush by lawmakers to balance the state budget and adjourn.

"We think the time to move is now," Campbell said. Two years ago, stadium supporters waited patiently for a last-minute deal on the final day of the session, only to see time expire on them.

This time, they changed tactics. Using a legal, but arcane, procedure, members of the House Rules Committee agreed to take the entire stadium funding bill and insert it into a Senate bill that already has passed the Senate floor.

The baseball bill now resides in Senate Bill 5, which originally was written as a proposal to use Oregon's kicker refunds to create a state rainy day fund. The rainy day fund language has been removed and inserted into a different bill.

All of this was necessary to ensure the baseball bill has a clear path to the Senate floor.

Because SB5 already cleared the Senate, the newly amended version now goes to the House, where it is expected to pass overwhelmingly. That could happen as soon as today, Campbell said.

Again, since the Senate already passed SB5 -- albeit for a vastly different purpose -- it can go directly to the Senate floor for a vote to "concur" with the newly revised version. The tactic bypasses any possible entanglement in a Senate committee.

Under legislative rules, Sen. Ryan Deckert, chairman of the Senate Revenue Committee, can call for a floor vote on the bill at any time after it clears the House.

Ryan, D-Beaverton, said he wasn't ready to talk about the bill or its chances in the Senate. But Campbell said he has been assured there are at least the 16 votes needed for passage.

The fiercest opponent of the bill has been Sen. Lenn Hannon, R-Ashland, the second-ranking member of the Senate. Tuesday's maneuver effectively neutralizes his ability to stop the bill from reaching the floor.

Hannon, credited with blocking the bill last session, could not be reached for comment despite calls and a visit to his Capitol office.

There were concerns that the tactic employed to move the bill forward could ignite more opposition. But lobbyists said "gut and stuff" actions are not uncommon, especially late in a session.

"We're not circumventing any process," Tresidder said. The baseball stadium bill has had more hours of hearings than just about any other issue at the Legislature except the state budget, he said.

David Kahn, Oregon Stadium Campaign leader, was on the phone with Major League Baseball officials much of Tuesday from Indianapolis, where he acts as special adviser to the NBA's Indiana Pacers.

"I made certain MLB was aware of how this was evolving," Kahn said. "We're in a position where I think things will move rather quickly, and I wanted to be certain they were up to speed."

Also on Tuesday, union representatives held a news conference at the Capitol to urge the Legislature to approve the stadium finance bill, saying it could help ease high unemployment in the construction trades.

"If this project proceeds, it will mean 1,500 family-wage building trades jobs during the three years of its construction," said Tim Nesbitt, president of Oregon AFL-CIO, "and another 1,500 permanent part-time jobs thereafter."

Kulongoski, who views the stadium proposal as a chance for economic development, stands ready to sign it, said his spokeswoman, Mary Ellen Glynn. Harry Esteve: 503-221-8234;  harryesteve@news.oregonian.com
How charming 13.Aug.2003 10:13

xyzzy

So nice to know that with the budget crisis, services to the elderly and poor being cut, and education funding in the shithole, the legislature is keeping its priorities straight.

Portland

Outrageous squandering of public funds! 13.Aug.2003 12:48

Dr. Evil

I'm usually grousing and arguing and disagreeing with most postings here, but on this one I'm with you 100%.
Spending public money to enrich a few clowns shows how stupid politicians are in general. Well, stupid AND greedy, I suppose . . . . . . .

I mean, daaamn.... 13.Aug.2003 15:43

Red Baron

the money spent on the ad campaign alone could've...

Dr. E-vil 13.Aug.2003 19:07

Gotcha!

You are one of us now.

Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha! Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!

You will never escape our clutches.

Ne-vah!

Heh-heh-heh.

*Rubs hands compulsively*

Out Of The Ball Park 13.Aug.2003 21:19

No Babe Ruth

Amazing.Four consecutive postings that I too agree with.Dr.Evil,why is it that you are usually not in agreement with the opinions expressed on Indy Media?

Minor League Ball 14.Aug.2003 13:50

cost us forty million

Will major league ball cost us four hundred million???