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Aldermen will face tight schedule on MLS stadium bills

Aldermen President Lewis Reed
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
Board of Aldermen president Lewis Reed, shown in this 2015 photo, has yet to send the MLS funding bills to committee.

Public funding for a proposed Major League Soccer stadium near Union Station is already facing opposition from Gov.-elect Eric Greitens. And St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed isn't making things easier for supporters at the local level.

Reed, who is in charge of assigning bills to committees, has yet to decide which committee or committees will hear the financing plan for the stadium. One measure would raise the city's sales tax by a half percent, with the revenue going to mass transit, public safety and economic development. A second measure would direct the corresponding increase in the use tax to the new stadium. Both require a vote of the people to take effect. The use tax is paid by business and is set at a level corresponding to the sales tax.

If Reed waits until next year to make those assignments — something that he's well within his rights to do — aldermen would have just two weeks to pass the bills if they want the measures on the April ballot.

"I received the bills an hour before they wanted me to assign them," Reed said. "We should have gotten that information a little bit earlier to really have an opportunity to take a look at the bills, understand what they are, their total impact, and the best assignment for them."

Reed is one of seven current candidates for mayor and has tried to set himself up as a natural foil to Mayor Francis Slay. But he dismissed the idea that he's playing politics.

"If that’s a political game, it was a political game not to give [the bills] to the board in a timely fashion," he said.

A spokesman for SC STL, the group backing the push for an MLS team in St. Louis, did not immediately return a request for comment on the delay.

The timeline

Board of Aldermen rules require Reed to send the MLS bills to committee by Jan. 6, the day aldermen return from their break. It would be up to the chair of the committee or committees to arrange for hearings on the measures.

Passing a bill at the Board of Aldermen is a four-step process. Though the board can suspend its own rules and take two of the steps on the same day, at least one full board meeting would have to be added to the schedule for aldermen to meet a Jan. 24 deadline to put the sales and use taxes on the April ballot. Convening what's known as a "resumed session" takes action by two of the following three: Reed, the board president, vice president Joe Roddy, D-17th Ward, and majority floor leader Terry Kennedy, D-18th Ward.

Roddy supported public financing for the proposed football stadium north of downtown. Kennedy did not.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.