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Koch scandal could slow Vikings stadium discussion

ST. PAUL - Upheaval within Senate Republican ranks could delay work on a Minnesota Vikings football stadium.

"Obviously, it's a bump in the road," said Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, who is chief House point man for a stadium bill.

Sen. Amy Koch, who resigned last week as majority leader, had become involved in stadium talks during the past month, Lanning said Tuesday, so without knowing who will replace her, questions arise.

"Sen. Koch was engaged in trying to work out a solution," Lanning said.

Koch left the job on Thursday, then on Friday four fellow senators told reporters the resignation followed them confronting Koch with allegations that she had carried on an improper relationship with a male Senate employee she supervised.

Two questions arise as Senate Republicans face a Dec. 29 deadline for picking a new leader:

-- Will the caucus settle down enough to deal with a stadium when it also must work through the Koch scandal and the need to cut $2 million from its budget?

-- Will the new majority leader support a stadium? One senator mentioned for the job, David Hann of Eden Prairie, does not support public financial involvement, which could slow stadium progress.

Koch was instrumental in setting up recent hearings about stadium location and funding, Lanning said.

The Senate GOP situation "has the potential of causing some added delay," the representative said. However, he held out hope that a bill could be ready for a special legislative session before the regular session begins on Jan. 24.

Last week, Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said Democrats need to join Republican stadium supporters because there are not enough votes from either party to pass stadium legislation.

"There is no magic formula that we have suddenly discovered," Michel said, calling the issue "a huge political Rubik's Cube."

Holding a special session before Jan. 24 would be tough, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove said.

"That's what Morrie wants," Zellers said, but it is not clear what Democrats want.

"Circling a date on the calendar" does not provide enough votes. Zellers added, saying that is what Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton did this fall when he sought a pre-Thanksgiving special session.

The Vikings' Metrodome lease expires Feb. 1 and team officials say they need a resolution to the issue soon. They say they cannot make enough money at the Metrodome.

Lanning, however, said the Vikings will not leave after this season. He said they will be play in the Metrodome at least one more season, but after that the team could be up for sale, and likely would move.

Lanning said a stadium agreement must come by the time legislators adjourn in 2012, which a tentative calendar sets at April 30.

The Vikings say they will put $425 million toward building a publically owned stadium, with state and local governments coming up with the rest of the $1.1 billion cost.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.