Saturday, 2:15 PM
Committee urges lawmakers to reject casino proposal
By Matt Viser, Globe
After a four-hour delay with parliamentary wrangling, a legislative committee has recommended this afternoon that lawmakers reject Governor Deval Patrick’s casino proposal by a vote of 10-8, with one abstention, according to one committee member who was told of the results.
House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and Representative Daniel Bosley, a committee co-chairman, have a press conference scheduled shortly to discuss the vote.
The action by the committee will allow the full House to take up the measure as early as Thursday. Traditionally, the recommendation of a committee vote carries great weight on the floor.
A vote from the committee had been expected at noon.
Bosley, an ardent gambling critic, refused to disclose the initial vote, but other committee members said the vote was tied – 9 votes in favor, 9 votes against, and one person abstaining. The additional four hours gave DiMasi, Patrick, and labor unions time to convince several fence-sitters.
Much of the focus had been on Representative Robert Rice, a Democrat from Gardner who abstained in the initial vote, according to Representative Brian Wallace, a South Boston Democrat who has been the House’s chief casino supporter. Rice did not immediately return calls for comment.
Supporters also felt they could sway Representative Thomas Conroy, a Wayland Democrat who voted no in the initial vote, but Conroy said in an interview that he was not changing his mind despite intense pleas today from union and administration officials.
Bosley and other casino critics did not expect they would have to be concerned with the parliamentary maneuverings, but the vote was extraordinarily close. Further complicating matters, Bosley erred by allowing the committee to attach six other casino-related bills to the governor’s legislation.
Three committee members called foul, sending an e-mail message out this morning saying that bundling the governor’s bill with other amendments violates procedural rules.
“The bundling of the governor's bill with other amendments, along with an adverse recommendation, may violate” the rules, the committee members, Representative Brad Hill and Senators Bruce Tarr and James Timilty, wrote in their e-mail. “Therefore, we believe that the committee should reconvene and extend the time for consideration of the legislation.”
Committees frequently bundle various bills together to send them out of committee, but the mix-up is an embarrassment on such a high-profile issue.
"I screwed up," Bosley told reporters outside his office at 12:25 p.m. -- 25 minutes after they were supposed to make the committee votes public. "We have to call members back and let them know that all of the other bills we attached yesterday are going into a study."
Legislators on both sides of the debate said there were no motives behind the mix-up, but the unions sent a letter to the committee saying that it was moving too quickly on such a big issue.
“By moving so quickly on a monumental piece of legislation with such widespread and passionate support you have rendered the democratic process a simple act of futility,” wrote Robert Haynes, president of the AFL-CIO. “You have ignored the will of working people who asked for a fair chance to make the obviously meritorious case for destination resort casinos.”
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