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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Back to work

The cheers are fading, the costs are being counted and it seems the Massachusetts Legislature is ready to go back to work.

Sort of.

Lawmakers held a hearing yesterday on Deval Patrick's billion dollar biotech bill and are looking to finally talk about casino gambling today. But next year's elections are not far from their minds.

That's evident in the slick political move engineered by House leaders in scheduled a hearing on the problems related to gambling. It's a perfectly fine approach -- if they had bothered to line up their Senate colleagues as part of the effort. Massachusetts legislative committees are overwhelmingly joint ones after all.
"If you're going to give the guy a fair shake, you should schedule a hearing on the casino bill and then, if necessary, ask other committees to hold hearings," said Senator Michael W. Morrissey, Democrat of Quincy and a casino proponent. "Have the governor's bill up first and go from there."
Evidence is starting to mount that casinos really aren't a good move. A recent report by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation suggested the financial benefits won't be anywhere near as rosy as Patrick suggests. There is no question in anyone's mind that gambling carries significant social costs.

So why does the House feel the need to stack the deck?

But those motives are simon pure compared to the fears by some lawmakers that Patrick's auto insurance proposal could harm their re-election efforts. Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and Rep. Antonio Cabral actually put those thoughts on paper.

While the bill they propose would close loopholes they see as harmful to minority groups and the poor in the administration's final set of "managed competition" rules opening the state's auto insurance market to greater competition and hopefully more choices and lower prices, they offer this gem:

In a letter to colleagues, Cabral and Wilkerson are soliciting more supporters for their legislation by explaining that some drivers could face increases of 9.3 percent and that bills will go out as the election season begins next year.

"Do you really want to try to explain that to your constituents while you are collecting signatures for your nomination papers?" they wrote.

I admit I was taken aback by headlines saying auto rates may rise by 10 percent next year after consistently falling for the past few. But putting your own electoral issues first, is well, I'll leave it to you to find the right word.

The games are over at Fenway but they are just beginning on Beacon Hill.

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