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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Friday, March 14, 2008

So's your old man....

Maybe they should hold next week's casino bill hearing in a boxing ring. Or a steel cage. This is about as dysfunctional as state government gets.

Senate Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee Chairman Jack Hart of South Boston -- conspicuous by his silence in the war of words over the casino proposal -- emerges to suggest the fix is in among his his colleagues at the hearing he will co-chair next week.
"It seems they've reached a conclusion," Hart said. "Why are they asking people to testify or members to come? I think it's a sham, and the people deserve better. . . . Give this bill and this idea a fair hearing, because it's our responsibility to do so, no matter how you feel on the thing."
That prompts his normally even-tempered House counterpart, Dan Bosley, to erupt:
"How stupid is that statement," he said. Although he said the committee vote is likely to send the House a negative recommendation on Patrick's bill, he said public testimony Tuesday will be taken seriously.
Um, Mr. Chairman, predicting the outcome before the hearing is not a great moment in democracy -- no matter how obvious it may be. (Oh, and welcome to the blogosphere!)

Meanwhile, Senate gambling foe Susan Tucker crashes a Patrick administration briefing and gets into a shouting match with a casino supporter.
"I think I'm a little outgunned here," said Tucker, motioning to a room of mostly casino supporters.
Well duh.

It's time to dial it down folks.

Regular readers know I come at this from two perspectives: the casinos proposal appears to fall short on its promises of jobs and revenues. And the Legislature needs to come up with alternatives.

In a letter to his colleagues (available on the subscription only Statehouse News Service) DiMasi ticks off what he says are legislative efforts at building the economic base and generating revenues. For the most part they are initiatives in which the governor and Senate President can share credit, with the much-maligned but now obviously successful tax breaks for movie making the only real House-generated initiative.

So let's move on to the obvious personality issue. DiMasi and Deval Patrick have been sniping almost from the get-go. When the Speaker chided Barack Obama as someone who will need on-the-job training, the reference was unmistakable.

So Patrick digs in, takes the unsubtle hint and lobbies House members directly and the Speaker is not amused. That has led to DiMasi's most egregious tactical mistake, in my view.

Despite basing his campaign for speaker on ending the Finneran-era tactic of demanding votes on the basis of loyalty, that is exactly what DiMasi is doing now. As one unnamed lawmaker told the News Service:
"Is a guy with 26 years in this building going to be humiliated by a guy with 14 months and no relationships? Not going to happen."
The ultimate loser in this spitting contest is you and me.

What we need now are cooler heads and real facts. If, as long predicted, the hearing produces an "ought not to pass" recommendation, the sides will only harden. This bill needs to be debated on the Senate floor first. If members of the Upper Chamber are really in favor of the bill, let them speak.

Then, if it emerges from the Senate, we need a full hearing on the House floor. Make the arguments. Clear the air. If it dies, it will be as a result of democracy at work.

Not because someone with 26 years in the building is worried about someone with 14 months and no relationships.

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