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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Sunday, August 01, 2010

DeLeo rolls snake eyes

House Speaker Robert DeLeo went all in on a bet to get a casino and a slots parlor in his district -- and lost by a single vote in the Senate. Or by a single word (subscription required) in the legislation authorizing three casinos and two racinos.

DeLeo may not just be tripped up by the fact the Senate failed to muster a two-thirds majority to override any action by Deval Patrick. The Statehouse News Service is reporting that under language in the conference committee report, Patrick could use a regulatory board he will appoint to control the issuance of slots licenses.
The compromise sent to his desk shortly before the midnight end of formal sessions says the regulatory commission created in the measure "may issue not more than 2 category 2 licenses," which permit racinos. If the language had said "shall," rather than "may," the commission would have been required to issue two licenses.
As a source told the News Service:
"Essentially, the governor can just sign the bill and not worry because he can just do the one license, because he controls the commission," a legislative source said after midnight Saturday, speaking on condition of anonymity. "He can do one if he wants. He can do zero."
In essence, DeLeo may be done in by a drafting error.

It would be an amazing end to a stormy day and stormy session in Beacon Hill where DeLeo and Patrick went hammer and tong over gambling legislation that the governor first proposed in 2008, only to see it shot down in the House of predecessor Speaker Sal DiMasi.

But while DiMasi opposed the move into gambling, DeLeo saw it as a full employment measure for his district, which includes Suffolk Downs and the Wonderland dog track. DeLeo made it personal and won big majorities in the House.

Patrick (and Senate President Therese Murray) had drawn the lines at racinos -- and Patrick continued to balk at the conference report that did not include language he had wanted calling for competitive bidding on one slots license.

Now he may not have to worry at all, thanks to language that no one picked up until after the circus closed its gate.

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