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The casino bill's bad press

Posted in: Massachusetts Legislature   Current Affairs
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As far as inevitable developments go, Beacon Hill’s consensus proposal to license three resort casinos and one slot parlor sure has a lot of questions hanging over it.

When the bill hit committee last month, it was greeted by the usual round of jeers and jabs at House Speaker Robert DeLeo -- a man who has become the face of legalized gambling in Massachusetts, despite being just one-third of the State House leadership team pushing casinos. But those jabs tend to come with the territory. And they’re usually the cost of doing business on Beacon Hill, where the backing of leadership is normally enough to seal a proposal’s fate (for better, or for worse). Leadership is already on board on this one, with DeLeo, Senate President Therese Murray, and Gov. Deval Patrick having hashed out their differences before bringing casinos to the rank-and-file.

Still, as the casino bill moves toward what’s largely seen as a perfunctory legislative vote, it’s being greeted by an unusual volume of bad press.

It started last week, when the Globe labeled the bill that Patrick, Murray and DeLeo backed a “deeply flawed” piece of legislation, and urged lawmakers to “kill it.” This, from a paper that had previously endorsed casino gambling. Yesterday, the paper detailed proposals to expand gambling in Maine, Rhode Island, New York, and New Hampshire; taken together, they could significantly skew the math that says there’s enough demand to support four gambling facilities in Massachusetts.

Today, the Berkshire Eagle piled on. The paper called Beacon Hill’s casino legislation a “bad bill” that had been “pre-digested” by leadership, while carving out “provisions for favored interests, which is a long-standing practice on Beacon Hill.” The Eagle rapped revenue set-asides for DeLeo’s tracks, and a provision giving the Mashpee Wampanoag the first crack at one of three licenses. Taking a cue from former attorney general Scott Harshbarger, it also noted the irony in “a notoriously corrupt industry looking to do business with a state that is notorious for its political corruption,” just as the state’s last speaker is being hauled off to a federal prison.

Two other movements are worth watching, beyond caustic words from newspaper editorial boards. On the anti-gambling front, United to Stop Slots Massachusetts is threatening to take a gambling law to court, on the grounds that casinos promote addictive behavior. The group believes successful anti-tobacco lawsuits could be recast for slots.

Then there’s state Rep. Dan Winslow, who wants to use the pending casino bill as a vehicle for opening up legalized online poker in Massachusetts. “If we're going to have a debate about gambling, let's really have a debate,” Winslow tells the Sun Chronicle today. It looks like that’s happening -- just when it looked like the casino fix was in.

                                                                                                                                                                    --PAUL MCMORROW

BEACON HILL

Attorney General Martha Coakley is investigating whether state Rep. Paul Adams, a Republican from Andover, covered up the source of $50,000 in campaign contributions, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Massachusetts education officials are preparing a restructuring plan for the 30 special education collaboratives, the Lowell Sun reports.

Writing in CommonWealth, Kevin Peterson urges the governor to protect minority voting rights.

The Massachusetts Democratic Party wants Keiko Orrall, the Lakeville Republican running in the special election for the 12th Bristol District, to return the donations she collected through her website using Paypal because her campaign did not collect the required information of the donor. Meanwhile, Blue Mass Group surveyed the 36 GOP lawmakers’ websites -- and skimmed the Democrats -- and found 19 of 24 legislators who accept online donations apparently do not comply with state regulations.

Local entertainment venues say they fear casino gambling will make it much more difficult for them to compete for performers, the Lowell Sun reports.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A 13-month-old boy was found dead in a day care transportation van in Dorchester hours after apparently being left alone in the vehicle on a day when the temperature topped 80 degrees in Boston.

The Eagle-Tribune has video of Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua’s gestures toward some walkers at a peace rally on Sunday. In an editorial, the paper says Lantigua misses another chance to lead. “Leadership requires honor, character, and empathy – qualities Lantigua sorely lacks,” the paper says.

Only one of Lowell’s four building inspectors has the proper state-certified credentials to do the job. An editorial in the Lowell Sun says the lack of qualified inspectors represents a serious deficiency of government competency to protect the public.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The National Review thinks President Obama is the Manchurian president, planted as a diabolic scheme by radical libertarians to render government asunder.

The Lowell Sun reviews some of the suggestions Sen. John Kerry is receiving on trimming the country’s deficit by more than $1 trillion over 10 years.

ELECTION 2012

A week after displaying a lot of Texas swagger in a debate with fellow GOP contenders, Rick Perry was on the defensive last night as other candidates took shots at him in a Tampa debate cosponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express. Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard declares Mitt Romney the clear cut winner. WBUR reports that Rick Perry takes a licking but keeps ticking. Howard Kurtz reports that Romney put Perry on the defensive. More on the winners and losers from The Washington Post. It turns out that Florida might not be the best place to call Social Security a Ponzi scheme. The Atlantic says the debate’s Tea Party affiliation was nominal at best, although it’s not clear whether Tea Party politics have become stand-ins for the GOP agenda, or vice versa.

Forget all that talk about “ObamneyCare.” T-Paw throws in with Mitt, as the GOP establishment closes ranks against the guy who named his cowboy boots “Freedom” and “Liberty.” If Rick Perry is too ideological to win a general election, well, so was Ronald Reagan. Joe Battenfeld welcomes the Texas governor to Boston.

The New Republic taps a literature professor at that wretched university on the Charles to dissect what’s up with Romney’s awkward jokes.

One political observer says it’s game over for Sarah Palin.

Setti Warren wins the Metheun Democratic City Committee straw poll.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Economists cast doubt on whether President Obama’s jobs bill will make a big difference.

Beleaguered Bank of America will slash 30,000 jobs.  

Seattle passes a law requiring businesses with at least five employees to provide paid sick leave to workers, the Seattle Times reports. Seattle follows San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Connecticut in approving such a measure.

Maybe the governor’s junket to Israel wasn’t just junketing. Israeli medical device company EarlySense is opening up shop in the Bay State.

EDUCATION

US News & World Report released its rankings of the “best value” for your education buck with seven private Massachusetts colleges making the top 50, led by Harvard at No. 1 and MIT in 5th.

The New Bedford School Committee endorsed an initiative by Bristol Community College to begin a program aimed at reducing the city’s dropout rate. Only 53.5 percent of New Bedford’s students graduate from high school compared to 82 percent statewide.

Students at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth are joining the nationwide Textbook Rebellion aimed at lowering the cost of college textbooks, which can run as high as $200 each.

HEALTH CARE

When it comes to chronic care, the Bay State fares poorly compared to the rest of the country, and that needs to change, The Cape Cod Times argues.

Henri Termeer, the former CEO of Genzyme, has donated $10 million to Mass. General Hospital for research to develop targeted therapies for cancer.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

In Pennsylvania, foes of natural gas drilling are pushing ballot questions that would ban it, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Tenants in five cottages on the Cape Cod National Seashore continue their battle to remain in their properties with the federal government and Mother Nature.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

US Rep. Barney Frank was in New Bedford pushing support for the bill he cosponsored with presidential candidate Ron Paul to decriminalize marijuana possession.

A robo-call scam is targeting seniors on the North and South shores in an attempt to compromise their debit and credit cards.

Former Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez was arrested in Florida on domestic violence charges.

Thefts of human hair are on the rise, reports Time.

MEDIA

Charlie Pierce is leaving the Globe to be the lead political blogger at Esquire magazine. But CommonWealth reports a disciplinary action by the paper against Pierce may be prompting the move.

 

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