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Tribe and tribulation for Indian gaming

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Since Gov. Deval Patrick signed a law authorizing casino gambling last year, a giant contradiction has been hanging over the race for the state’s three casino licenses. The law carves out a license for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe in the state’s southeastern region, provided the Legislature and the state gaming commission are confident in the ability of the Mashpee to enter the federal regime governing tribal gaming. But thanks to a 2009 Supreme Court ruling, the federal government has no power to take title to land for a Mashpee gaming reservation. So even as the Mashpee proceed with plans to construct a casino complex in Taunton, absent an act of Congress, they’re heading toward a federal dead end.

An 8-1 Supreme Court ruling released yesterday underscores the Mashpee tribe’s tenuous position in the federal gaming bureaucracy. The court refused to toss out a lawsuit challenging a profitable tribal casino that opened in Michigan early last year. The Supreme Court challenge was litigated on narrow ground -- whether the federal government and the Michigan tribe were immune from lawsuits, and whether a casino abutter has standing to challenge the federal land taking that created the casino.

Yesterday’s ruling allows a much more explosive lawsuit to proceed; that suit claims the federal interior secretary never had the ability to take title to the land the tribal casino operates on. That question goes to the heart of the Mashpee conundrum, since the Supreme Court has already ruled that Interior can only take land for tribes that the federal government recognized before 1934. Essentially, the court just allowed a lawsuit challenging powers the court has already said Interior doesn’t have.

And the Michigan tribe is on somewhat more solid footing than the Mashpee, since Interior’s Michigan land taking was made one month before the 2009 Supreme Court ruling that shut the door on most tribal land takings; the Mashpee, a tribe that received federal recognition in 2007, have been chasing gaming reservations in Fall River and Taunton with the full weight of that 2009 ruling hanging over them. And as the court said yesterday, it’s more than ready to hear any challenges to end-runs around it. 

                                                                                                                                                --PAUL MCMORROW


BEACON HILL

The Patrick administration unveils a new tax credit program designed to promote affordable housing in Gateway Cities, the Sun reports.

Pioneer Institute’s Steve Poftak, in an op-ed in the Fall River Herald News, wonders if a full-time Legislature is even necessary, given the lack of process and debate. It’s a question getting asked more often since CommonWealth’s story in our spring issue on the decline of hearings and roll-call votes on Beacon Hill.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua returns from a 10-day vacation to the Dominican Republic, taking heat for missing the Lawrence High School graduation, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Lowell City Manager Bernie Lynch fires the city’s parking director, the Sun reports.

A Massachusetts Gaming Commission forum considers the impact of casinos on city and town services. The MetroWest Daily News report is here.

The Eagle-Tribune, in an editorial, urges officials in Lawrence, Haverhill, and Methuen to tone down their cutting remarks about each other and their towns.

Cambridge mulls following New York’s lead in banning large sodas.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Thanks to a sharp dropoff in Hispanic immigration, Asians are now the largest immigrant group arriving in the US.

A WBUR poll conducted by the MassINC Polling Group indicates Angus King is far ahead in the race to replace Sen. Olympia Snowe in Maine.

ELECTION 2012

Things that make you go “hmmm”: An expert in Cherokee genealogy who is coming here to investigate Elizabeth Warren’s heritage has ties to a conservative blogger who has ties to Scott Brown’s campaign, reports Keller@Large. Peter Lucas, in this Sun column, takes another whack at Warren, calling her a cigar-store Indian. Warren is outspending Scott Brown, which is keeping the Massachusetts Senate race on track to be the most expensive Senate contest in the country. Brown says he’ll only debate Warren at UMass Boston if Victoria Kennedy stays neutral in the Senate race.

The National Review spotlights Ann Romney’s battle with multiple sclerosis and how that struggle makes the presidential campaign pale by comparison.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal both spotlight efforts to turn Mitt Romney into a candidate who’s capable of talking to people without sounding like this, or this.

John Kerry will be spouting Mitt Romney talking points -- as he plays the part of former Massachusetts governor in debate prep sessions with President Obama.

CHARITY

The annual “Giving USA” report found that charitable donations in 2011 grew by an anemic 0.9 percent. Via Chronicle of Philanthropy.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Should cities buy local? Governing asks.

CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow says in his weekly Globe column that Millennium Partners’s 600 foot tower -- with 500 residential units -- is a great fit for the Filene’s pit.  

More bad press for the Upper Crust, which has faced sanctions for exploiting workers at its pizza outlets.

EDUCATION

Terrence Gomes, the embattled president of Roxbury Community College, calls it quits.

HEALTH CARE

The Cape Cod Times supports a ban on bath salts, but wonders why the Legislature is taking so long to devise one.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A two-week lockout at Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth appears to be over, WBUR reports. Meanwhile, Attorney General Martha Coakley has filed an appeal in federal court of the 20-year license extension for Pilgrim, charging the NRC failed to do its due diligence in assessing safety threats to the 40-year-old plant.

Years of contentious debate between New Bedford and surrounding communities over the clean-up money for New Bedford Harbor came to an end yesterday with the awarding of the final $6.6 million in grants from an environmental trust fund set up for the remediation.

Boston is a recycling laggard, the Globe reports.

The Berkshire Eagle wants the federal EPA to get on with a cleanup plan for the Housatonic River.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A Holbrook man was arrested in Brockton after police said he used stolen sausage links to attack and rob a man on a bike. Insert your own joke. We never sausage a thing.

Roger Clemens is acquitted of charges he lied to Congress.

MEDIA

The winners of the Knight News Challenge are announced, including one from Massachusetts offering a way to respond to natural disasters, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.

The Republican debuts its redesiged website.

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