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Key senator in hospital for casino vote

Senator Stanley Rosenberg has spent the past quarter-century in state politics and helped write the casino and gambling bill. (Mark Wilson/Globe Staff) Senator Stanley Rosenberg has spent the past quarter-century in state politics and helped write the casino and gambling bill.
By Mark Arsenault
Globe Staff / November 16, 2011

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After leading the state Senate’s legislative efforts on the year’s two thorniest issues - casino gambling and redistricting - Stanley C. Rosenberg should have been in position yesterday for a State House victory lap.

The casino bill the state senator from Amherst researched and helped craft moved toward approval, as did a congressional redistricting map he helped draw.

But the unassuming Amherst Democrat was not in Boston yesterday. His office said he is convalescing in Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton after experiencing severe dehydration, a complication of his cancer treatment.

Rosenberg has been the Senate’s point man in the development of casino legislation. He served on the six-member conference committee that in recent weeks smoothed out differences between Senate and House versions of the casino bill.

In an equally difficult task, Rosenberg also cochaired the legislature’s Special Joint Committee on Redistricting, which had the tricky job of redrawing the congressional districts to eliminate one of the state’s 10 US House seats and redrawing state district lines. Last evening, the Legislature debated the map the committee produced.

“I just can’t see that this all would have been done without his leadership,’’ said Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan, Democrat of Leominster.

She served with Rosenberg on the conference committee that reconciled House and Senate casino bills. She presented the compromise to colleagues yesterday, saying that Rosenberg’s absence from the proceedings should not diminish what he meant to the process.

Senator Stephen M. Brewer, a Barre Democrat, said the vote on the casino bill was “bittersweet’’ without Rosenberg.

Rosenberg’s effort to shepherd redistricting and the casino bill to the brink of passage while being treated for cancer was “a pretty extraordinary lift on his part,’’ Brewer said.

He said he was unsure how the Senate could have finished the casino legislation without Rosenberg’s guidance.

Earlier this month, Rosenberg was seen hustling between the Senate floor, where he was managing a floor debate on redistricting, to a conference committee meeting where Senate and House members were reconciling two versions of casino legislation.

Last Wednesday morning, “after four difficult days,’’ Rosenberg was admitted to the hospital through its emergency room, his office said.

Rosenberg was diagnosed in September with squamous cell carcinoma, a curable form of skin cancer. He has completed five weeks of radiation treatment and two weeks of chemotherapy, his office said.

His absence this week caused some confusion because his signature was necessary on the conference committee report.

Ultimately, Rosenberg signed a release stating that he supported the compromise bill and authorizing Rosalie Adams, his chief of staff, to sign for him, she said.

Rosenberg has spent the past quarter-century in state politics. He won a seat in the state House of Representatives in 1986, representing Amherst and Pelham. In 1991, he won a special election for the Senate seat vacated by John Olver, elected that year to Congress.

Rosenberg is known for his command of policy details and his understated leadership style.

“It’s not about being flashy or grabbing headlines for him,’’ said Flanagan. “It’s really about the nuts and bolts issues ahead of him. He’s very quiet, thorough, and very direct.’’

Senate President Therese Murray said Rosenberg “loves the big issues and the complex policy matters that drive so much of what we do.

“The sacrifices he has made and his determination and work ethic are truly inspiring,’’ Murray said in a prepared statement. “With redistricting and gaming, the two biggest issues we will face this session, he has led the way and gone above and beyond the call even as he deals with illness.’’

Mark Arsenault can be reached at marsenault@globe.com