Friday, May 16, 2008

Casino Debate Lives...

Well, sorta.

State Senator Michael Knapik has proposed using the budget process to get the idea of casinos back on the table.

You may remember the trauma and drama that Gov. Deval Patrick and Mass. House Speaker Sal DiMasi went fighting to bring gambling to Bay State. That epic struggle between wisdom and foolhardiness ended with casino legislation going down in defeat. Certain of failure, Gov. Patrick went to the Big Apple to seal a book deal and so gave up Memoirgate.

Because this battle took place in the House, the Senate never really got into any real debate about the issue. Although Senate Pres. Therese Murray offered tepid support for casino legislation, it was never a high priority for her.

For whatever reason, Knapik will attempt to use the budget debate to add an amendment to essentially do what Patrick original bill would have done. Although it is unlikely to pass the Senate and certain to die on the House floor or in the House-Senate compromise budget, this turn of events highlights something else.

Sen. Knapik is not stupid. Certainly his support or opposition to casino gambling has little ramifications for the good Senator. His district is conservative enough that his seat remains safe regardless of what he does on the issue. Rather, he is using the situation to highlight his issues with the budget at large.

As Knapik and his colleague, Westfield Rep. Don Humason, have told constituents, the GOP on Beacon Hill have almost no power and no influence unless they go along with the Democratic leadership. It leaves them rare occasions to actually stand up against bad budget and bad bills. Whether the bills are bad or not is their opinion, however, there are circumstances where they are right.

It appears, based on the news sources that reported the story that Knapik simply wants to draw attention the budget's wastefulness and its possibly irresponsible use of rainy day funds and tax increases. Casinos have little to do with it.

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