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A $10 Million Baseball Bobble

Council Members Undo Symbolic Vote Against Stadium

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 2, 2005; Page B04

It seems nothing is to be taken for granted when it comes to baseball in Washington.

Members of the D.C. Council almost made a $10 million error yesterday in an effort to voice opposition to a publicly financed stadium.

When the baseball deal passed the D.C. Council in December, supporters including Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), center, were all smiles. (Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)

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Full Report

Buried among 26 emergency bills that needed to be renewed during yesterday's council session was the baseball legislation passed after an acrimonious debate in December and set to expire in March.

The council routinely passes "emergency" legislation that goes into effect immediately and lasts for 90 days until an identical "permanent" bill has been reviewed by Congress. In the case of the baseball legislation, the emergency measure needed to be renewed because the permanent bill won't be finished with congressional review until the end of March.

Baseball opponents figured that by refusing to renew the measure yesterday, they would be taking a purely symbolic vote against the stadium package.

So council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) moved to separate the emergency baseball bill from the 25 other bills. Then Fenty, David A. Catania (I-At Large), Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) and Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) voted against it. That was enough to kill the measure.

Soon afterward, mayoral aides and baseball supporters started entering the council chamber. The tempo quickened. Conversations were had.

Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) explained that by defeating the renewal of the emergency bill, members had voted to deprive the city of all sales tax on baseball tickets and Washington Nationals merchandise for about a month, which would mean about $10 million in lost revenue.

Chagrined, baseball opponents reversed course. Brown asked the council to reconsider the bill, and it was approved. Only Fenty voted against it the second time.

"It goes to show that there is going to be nothing routine about baseball in D.C.," Graham said.

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