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Key issues progressing ... slowly

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota legislators may not adjourn for the year by the Norwegian Syttende Mai holiday on Wednesday, but negotiators said Friday they saw some progress.

"Things seem to be going in a very, very positive manner," House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, said lawmakers could wrap up work in a week: "Friday would be a wonderful time for us to adjourn."

Some movement on major issues was reported Friday, but no agreements to solve disputes materialized and few meetings, if any, are expected this Mother's Day weekend.

On Friday:

• A committee trying to decide what public works projects would be funded came to within a razor's edge of agreement, although members exchanged sharp words as night fell.

• Negotiators on professional stadium construction funding compared bills the House and Senate passed, and heard testimony from Twins and Vikings officials.

• Senators and representatives trying to work out a deal to increase outdoors, clean water and public works funding appeared optimistic they could accomplish the task.

• House-Senate conference committee members reconciling budget bills looked over what both chambers have done.

• Gov. Tim Pawlenty called Johnson from International Falls, Minn., and, as Johnson said, the two had a productive conversation about ways to end the session.

Legislative leaders -- three of whom are Norwegian -- had hoped to be done by Wednesday, the Norwegian constitution day. That appeared unlikely, but they began to say at least they should be out of St. Paul before their May 22 constitutional deadline.

Roofs were a prime topic in the stadium conference committee.

"This is probably not the best day to say we can get along without a roof," Twins Sports President Jerry Bell said as a cold rain fell outside.

Bell said the baseball team probably would average just six rain-outs a year. Still, in most of the past decade that the Twins have sought a new stadium, its officials have wanted a retractable roof.

However, Bell added, a roof is too expensive -- costing $125 million.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.