ST. PAUL, Minn. – The state legislature failed to pass any reforms to the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) this session as legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton could not come to an agreement.
The push for reform came in the form of HF 778 introduced by Reps. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth), Joe Hoppe (R-Chaska), Peggy Scott (R-Andover), and Regina Barr (R-Inver Grove Heights). Both the House and the Senate had passed the bill in some form, and a conference committee led by Anderson and Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center), the bill’s chief author in the Senate, was held Friday evening.
In spite of the resolution of a number of discrepancies between the bills that night, legislative leaders felt that differences between themselves and Gov. Mark Dayton were insurmountable at this juncture.
The bill has been tabled for now as the legislature pursues a special session in order to just get budget bills passed. Government operations will shut down with a lack of funding if budgets are not passed by the beginning of the next fiscal year on July 1.
Proposed reforms of MSFA followed an investigation by Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles which began in December 2016. Media outlets discovered MSFA officials had used luxury suites at U.S. Bank Stadium to entertain family, friends, and Democratic politicians at Minnesota Vikings games for little to no cost for the guests.
Rosen, at the time, issued strident calls for a list of all MSFA guests to be made public. Then-MSFA Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and then-MSFA Executive Director Ted Mondale claimed they were justified in using the suites for family members as their duties required long hours away from home.
Nobles’ investigation started with the misuse of the two luxury suites MSFA directly controlled, and uncovered a third suite. This one had gone unreported for some time and was rented from the Vikings. MSFA would pay the Vikings $300,000 a year for five years in exchange for 30 years of control of the suite.
Kelm-Helgen and Mondale both resigned their positions on February 16.
Among other things, the bill would have required MSFA to give up control of the third suite, increased the legislature’s oversight of MSFA appointees, and vastly increased mandatory reporting requirements and public availability of the authority’s data.