With major bills stalled in the Legislature due to an impasse over a casino gambling bill, Governor Deval Patrick called today for lawmakers to extend their session beyond the official Saturday deadline, if it's necessary to complete their work.
"I'm calling on the Legislature to get the people's business done," he said. "The question isn't whether I get my priorities, but it's whether the people of the Commonwealth get their priorities."
Patrick said "there's an awful lot of very, very important business" pending in the Legislature, citing several bills, including legislation limiting health insurance costs for small businesses and reforming criminal records laws.
"I hope it can get done by the end of the day on Saturday when the session formally ends. But if it doesn't, the Legislature needs to stay in session until it gets done. If that means some additional days and extending the session, I'm calling on them to do just that," he said.
Patrick commented as legislative leaders continued to search for a compromise on the bill to expand gambling in the state, with a special meeting called in House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo's office.
“I just think today’s the key day for production purposes and procedural purposes. We need to get to some resolution today,” said Senator Steven C. Panagiotakos, a Lowell Democrat and a key negotiator.
Panagiotakos said that, because of the complexity of the bill, the Legislature would need two days to draft it once a compromise is reached, before meeting a Friday night deadline. Lawmakers would then hold a vote on Saturday, the last day of the session. A House official said the meeting in DeLeo's office was scheduled "to try to get this done."
The Senate gave the House its latest compromise offer this morning. The sides have been swapping proposals on and off all month. The House favors both casinos and authorizing state racetracks to install slot machines, while the Senate and Governor Deval Patrick oppose giving racetracks slot licenses.
The latest Senate proposal would leave disputed elements of the bill to "another forum," according to a Senate official who requested anonymity because negotiations are supposed to be confidential. That could mean allowing a gambling commission to decide how to handle slots at the tracks.
Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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