State GOP calls for openness measure in casino debate

State Senate Republicans today proposed a cooling-off period in the debate over casino gambling, aiming to shed light on a process that has so far been marked by closed-door negotiations.

The GOP proposal, which Minority Leader Bruce Tarr’s office said would be debated in the Senate this afternoon, would require a 10-day wait between the time any gambling bill is filed by the Senate Ways and Means Committee and voted upon in the Senate.

It follows complaints from gambling opponents that the public has been shut out as top House and Senate leaders meet privately to discuss gambling with Governor Deval Patrick.

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All of them are Democrats.

A spokesman for Senate President Therese Murray declined comment on the GOP proposal.

The Senate’s four Republicans account for just 10 percent of the body’s 40 members, making Democratic support crucial to their efforts. The Tarr proposal would not apply to the House, which sets its own rules.

Patrick said on his monthly radio show this morning that he expects to pass a bill this year, but promised a robust public process.

Both Murray and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo have also pointed to public hearings as evidence that the process is being debated transparently.

But the tough issues on Beacon Hill are often resolved at a high level, behind closed doors. And bills are often voted on soon after they are filed.

All three parties have acknowledged discussing their differences on the issue in private meetings.

“Expanded gaming is one of the most complicated and sensitive issues facing our state government, and one in which even minor variations can have major consequences politically and practically,’’ Tarr, a Republican from Gloucester said in a statement. “Given these facts, the legislative process to consider any gaming issues demands that people have time to review any bill to be taken seriously in order to make the informed decisions the subject deserves.’’

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