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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The joker is wild

Who says they don't like gambling on Beacon Hill?

With the days rapidly flipping off the calendar (and the hours whizzing by until Deval Patrick gains pocket veto power), legislative leaders and business leaders made their way in and out of the Corner Office to talk about the host of issues still pending and the one giant roadblock to action: the casino bill.

While Senate President Therese Murray said the business delegation talked about economic development and not gambling, it would have been a hard subject to avoid all together. The endless talk about casinos is starting to wear on everyone and everything. The Globe has editorialized the Big Three should fold its hands and move on to pending economic and health legislation.

The Statehouse News Service (subscription required) sagely noted the stakes are high for House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who is all in on delivering the bacon for his district that is home to Suffolk Downs and Wonderland. DeLeo is clearly looking for a legacy beyond that of his three immediate predecessors, who all carry "indicted" or "convicted" in front of their names.

Reports trickling out from the Big 3 or the legislative conferees talk of discussions without resolutions. Rumors have emerged like the Senate offered -- and the House rejected -- a one racino option, subject to the bidding process.

Today is a pivotal day, which is what likely brought yesterday's visit from Robert Kraft, Jack Connors and John Fish. The power will noticeably shift to Patrick as we enter the final 10 days of the session. He will be able to veto anything he dislikes and lawmakers will be powerless to override.

The business leaders are anxious for movement on other issues Murray has been pushing to promote jobs and growth -- and take some of the pressure of rising health insurance premiums for small business. DeLeo has clearly held those issues hostage to casinos and while slots may not have been discussed openly, you know they were on everyone's radar.

And while DeLeo has a lot riding on the final days, the stakes are just as high for Patrick, who knows what transpires in the next 10 days will help or hurt his re-election bid enormously.

Caving to DeLeo would be disaster, but stalemate would only be slightly less problematic. A solid record on ethics, pension and transportation reform would be lost in yet another gambling debacle, the second in four years.

Two cards really matter here: the pocket veto may well be the Aces of Spades, the card that gives Patrick the chance to take the jackpot, show he is a leader who can bring people together to hammer out tough decisions.

The other is the Joker -- and who, if anyone, will get stuck with it on July 31.

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