Lawmakers file suit to stop use of Edward Jones Dome bonds for new NFL stadium

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ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – There was a new threat to the new Riverfront Stadium project Wednesday:  a group of state lawmakers filed suit seeking a Writ of Prohibition and Declaratory Judgment to stop the deal.

The “unofficial” funding plan is that most of the state’s portion of at least $250 million in public funds for the close to billion dollar stadium aimed at keeping the Rams in St. Louis would come from extending the bonds for the Edwards Jones Dome.

NFL officials, including Commissioner Roger Goodell, have praised the stadium task force and Governor Jay Nixon for the growing momentum.

The 6 state lawmakers say Nixon and the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority (RSA) do not have authority to extend the bonds.

They filed suit in Cole County, where Jefferson City is located.

Senator Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph, Rep. Jay Barnes of Jefferson City, Rep. Eric Burlison of Springfield, Rep. Mark Parkinson of St. Charles, Rep. Rob Vescovo of Arnold, and Rep. Tracy McCreery of Olivette, signed onto the suit.

“I got emails all the time from voters in my district asking me to do something about this.  We could see in the news and the media every day that things were proceeding without the authority to proceed,” McCreery said.

She’d received more than 100 emails, about 50 emails from residents in her district, voicing displeasure with the plan.

She only received 1 in support, she said.

With tight budget constraints and funding shortfalls from education to Medicaid protecting taxpayers was paramount – even it meant losing the Rams, she said.

“Just because we have some fiscal challenges in this state that we throw our fiscal responsibilities to the wind.  At home, if I am running low on money I don’t just say, ‘oh what the heck I’m just going to keep spending money like a drunken sailor’… I think the stadium will be built even if the public money doesn’t come through. There is money out there that does not involve the taxpayer money.  The owner of the Rams has the ability to make this happen on his own.”

Stadium supporters noted that no one in the legislative leadership signed onto the suit and that the legislature had chances to pass legislation during the recently concluded legislative session but all attempts failed.

Also, the suit seeks to stop an action before it’s actually been proposed.

The filing came just after a victory of sorts for stadium supporters:  a deadline passed to force an August vote by city residents on $6 million dollars-a-year in public funding from the City of St. Louis.

“In order to have something appear on the ballot, the election authority must receive official notification at least 10 weeks before the election.  August 3rd is the next available election date. 10 weeks before that was yesterday,” said Gary Stoff of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners.

The earliest the issue could hit a ballot now would be November, he said.  According to the NFL’s timeline, that could be too late to stop the plan.

There’s also a lawsuit in the city to force a public vote.

A hearing set for Thursday has been pushed back until next week.