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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Deal or No Deal?

Fashion mavens in the Statehouse today will be checking to see what Wrentham Republican Richard Ross is wearing with his suit. In particular, they will be checking to see if the sling for his twisted arm matches the fabric.

Despite House Speaker Sal DiMasi's insistence that he did no arm-twising and made no bargains to engineer a 10-8 committee vote to kill Deval Patrick's casino bill, the evidence is, how shall we say this, contradictory.

For starters, you have a four-hour or so delay between the time the poll of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies is supposed to be announced. During that time, word spreads the vote is tied with one member reserving his rights.

The Globe reports DiMasi cancelled a public appearance during that time. I don't assume it was for a last-minute dental appointment. Part of the reason for that may have been that casino foes messed up on parliamentary procedure in packaging the bill.

But lo and behold, as the clock struck 4 p.m. Ross has a change of heart, after declaring Tuesday night, "I'm sticking with the governor. I think Sal's very surprised."

Here's how the Globe describes the scene yesterday:
Ross has been a key figure since Tuesday evening when, as hours of testimony continued and it became clear from private head counts that the committee was evenly divided, DiMasi entered the hearing room and sat in the front row, sternly looking over the members for about 15 minutes. Later in the night DiMasi called several legislators into his office, including Ross, to try to pressure them to change.
And while DiMasi insists he made no promises, Ross suggests otherwise. His district includes the Plainridge Racecourse, one of four tracks looking for "racino" status that would allow them to install slot machines.

Ross said he switched his position from agreeing with the governor after speaking by phone with Plainridge president Gary Piontkowski.

"It was down to the eleventh hour, the 59th minute," said Ross, a first-term House member from Wrentham who also said he met with DiMasi twice in 16 hours. "Ultimately I owe my vote to the people in the district, how they wish me to vote."

As Howie Mandel would say "Deal or No Deal?"

I had a private conversation with a casino opponent who compared this vote to the gay marriage amendment and the tactics and maneuvers used to sway lawmakers to take a different vote than they would otherwise be inclined. He has a point.

But although I am comfortable with the outcome in both instances, why do I feel about more squeamish about this one?

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Anonymous Capital D said...

number one: Ross said the Governor used pending legislation on his desk as an incentive to vote yes in Committee and two: I belive according to State House News reports that it was Republican Senator Tarr who asked for the 4 hour delay not the Speaker or Rep. Bosley...Tarr is a casino supporter BTW and three: I head a lot about the Speaker twisting arms but no one has come forth saying that it actually happened to them, the opposition has accused him, but no one has confirmed this.

March 21, 2008 12:10 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Cap, thanks for the comments:

No one is calling Patrick a saint here and horse trading is indeed an accepted part of the debate. I'd be more concern about Rep. Ross' "flexibility" in making promises, then forgetting them when a better offer comes along.

Two, I may be wrong, but I believe Tarr asked for the delay because he raised objections to the parliamentary tactics that were being used to bundle a number of bills into a study.

Three -- let's be serious. Would you admit to being pressured into doing something? Or name your price publicly?

Yes, there isn't smoking gun to prove DiMasi made deals. But deals are all a part of the legislative process and the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. Maybe not enough to convict in a courtroom, but substantial evidence nonetheless.

And again, the deals don't bother me. It's that DiMasi ran for speaker on a platform of ending Finneran-era abuses on voting and here he pressured members to vote "his" way in what was obviously a power showdown with Patrick.

March 21, 2008 5:44 AM  

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