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Government, Politics & Issues

Rams may be gone, but efforts to limit governor's power on stadium debt remain

via Wikimedia Commons
A new stadium planned for downtown Los Angeles could have implications for the fate of the St. Louis Rams, who can break their lease on the Edward Jones Dome in 2014 unless upgrades are made.

Debate has begun in the Missouri Senate on legislation designed to block Gov. Jay Nixon from issuing bonds for any new sports stadium without a vote of the people or the legislature.

Even though the Rams have left St. Louis for Los Angeles, Senate Bill 580 would also require approval from voters or lawmakers to any improvements to the existing Edward Jones Dome. It's sponsored by Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph.

"We're just requiring them to get permission that we always thought that they had to have," he said. "Who would have guessed that Gov. Nixon would interpret the law to say that they could put us into debt, with a total of payments of $415 million over 30 years, without our say-so?"

At least two St. Louis Democrats oppose the bill, including Minority Floor Leader Joseph Keaveny. He told Schaaf that he thinks Nixon does have the authority to extend the existing bonds on the Edward Jones Dome without voter approval, based on the language of the law passed in 1994 that enticed the Rams to move to St. Louis in the first place. And Keaveny's irritation wasn't limited to stadium debt legislation:

"My point is (that) St. Louis has taken a hit for the last couple of years now, and we're still under attack with the earnings tax (elimination bill)."

Keaveny then told Schaaf:  "You've done a very good job of discouraging the NFL to stay in St. Louis; I commend you for that!"

Keaveny was preparing to offer 14 amendments to Schaaf's bill in an effort to kill it.  Fellow Democrat Jamilah Nasheed of St. Louis has also prepared several amendments.

So far, only one amendment has been approved.  Language was added by Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, that would expand the vote requirement to "all relevant sports authorities" in Missouri, namely, those in Kansas City. The amendment was approved unanimously, 31-0.

The Senate adjourned Monday without voting on the bill, and it's uncertain when debate will resume.

Schaaf is also sponsoring SJR 17, which is the same proposal, but in the form of a constitutional amendment that would bypass Gov. Nixon and go before voters on the November ballot.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

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