- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri lawmakers are challenging the authority of Gov. Jay Nixon and officials who oversee the current St. Louis Rams stadium over plans to build a new one in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

A group of six lawmakers are plaintiffs in the suit filed in Cole County Circuit Court, which claims that Nixon is misusing taxpayer funds and violating state statutes as he pushes to replace the dome.

The St. Louis Rams play in the Edward Jones Dome, an aging stadium considered outdated by NFL standards. Owner Stan Kroenke has expressed interest in a stadium project in suburban Los Angeles, prompting speculation that the team will move in 2016.

Nixon in November appointed a task force to consider plans to build a new stadium with the hope that it might lure the Rams to stay in St. Louis or attract another team if Kroenke moves the franchise to Los Angeles.

Nixon’s administration has said he can extend payments on the existing Edward Jones Dome without legislative approval to finance a new dome. But some lawmakers this session have repeatedly disputed that.

“I want nothing more than for the Rams to stay,” said Rep. Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, adding that he’s a Rams fan. “But I don’t think the governor has the authority to bury us under the additional debt without proper vetting.”

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, and others filed legislation this session to block the governor from reissuing bonds without lawmaker approval. Those bills failed to pass.

So legislators opposed to Nixon’s actions instead hope to block him in court. The lawsuit asks the court to stop any further action by the governor and the authority immediately.

A Nixon spokesman did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment. An after-hours message left with the authority was not immediately returned.

Vescovo and Schaaf are joined in the lawsuit by Reps. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield; Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City; Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis; and Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles. Barnes, an attorney, is representing the group.

The lawsuit says the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority doesn’t have power to pay for plans or extend bond payments for a new stadium based on state law creating the board.

The authority’s board has approved the signing of contracts with architects, planners, engineers and attorney totaling at least $40 million toward the potential development of a new stadium, according to the lawsuit.

“If they want to move forward with this they need to come to the legislature and ask the legislature to change the law,” Barnes said.

The lawsuit also alleges that the proposed site is not near an existing convention facility and that too many of the board members are Democrats, violating state law.

Another lawsuit filed in St. Louis in April by the board running the Dome challenges a local requirement for a public vote on the use of city funds for a new stadium.

___

Associated Press writer Summer Ballentine contributed to this report. Follow Marie French at https://twitter.com/m_jfrench and Summer Ballentine at https://twitter.com/esballentine.


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