A clarification has been attached to this article.
This casino bill is no more. It has ceased to be. It has expired and gone to meet its legislative maker. It’s a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. This… is an ex-bill.
At least that’s what lawmakers opposed to – and even some proponents of –expanding gambling in Massachusetts say. “I think that the clock has run out,” said state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, whose Second Suffolk District seat includes parts of Dorchester.
Lawmakers wrapped up the legislative session a few minutes into Sunday morning, sending a three-casino, two-slot facility bill to the governor’s desk that had one slots facility too many for him and, from his perspective, didn’t have assurances that there would be competitive bidding for the slot licenses.
Now Gov. Deval Patrick is locked in a stalemate with Senate President Therese Murray, who says she doesn't have the votes to return and finish up the bill, and the House speaker, Robert DeLeo, who is demanding that Patrick sign the compromise. If he doesn’t, DeLeo says, Patrick is killing the potential for 15,000 jobs.
For his part, Patrick has offered a proposal similar to his bill from 2008, which was killed by the House under a different speaker. That proposal does not have any racinos, also known as racetracks with slot machines.
“I don’t know if it’s dead,” said state Rep. Marty Walsh, a Dorchester Democrat who supports the Legislature’s compromise bill. “It has a lot of hurdles to get by in order to address it. I think we have the numbers in the House to come back, I don’t think they’re there in the Senate.”
The House voted 115-36 on the compromise; the Senate’s vote was 25-15.
For the House, that was a flip from a 108-44 vote in March 2008: Members of the Dorchester delegation who voted to kill the governor’s bill then were state Reps. Marie St. Fleur, Linda Dorcena Forry, and Elizabeth Malia. And those voting for the bill were Walsh, Brian Wallace, and Willie Mae Allen (D-Mattapan).
This time around, those voting for the Legislature’s version of the bill – the three-casino, two-racino proposal – included Forry, who is married to Reporter managing editor Bill Forry, and Walsh. Voting against the bill: Allen, who is retiring, and Malia. St. Fleur took a job in Mayor Thomas Menino’s office in June, and Wallace, who is also retiring this year, did not vote.
In the Senate, Jack Hart (D-South Boston), like Walsh and Wallace a staunch supporter of casinos, voted for the compromise bill as well as the governor’s bill in 2008. Chang-Diaz, who took office in 2009, has long questioned the positive forecasts for expanding gambling.
DeLeo is holding out hope. “I think at this point, not only members of the House but the Senate, but myself in particular are going to have to take a step back, talk to membership, see what their feeling is relative to whether it be moving forward, coming back, whatever it may be,” he said. “So, as of right now until the session’s over there is nothing dead.”
Ten thousand recovered e-mails later…
It was the controversy that started somewhere around Page 20, almost as a sidebar. In the midst of Mayor Thomas Menino’s re-election effort, the Globe noted that his top aide had been regularly deleting – double-deleting, actually – his e-mails.
Menino’s rivals seized on the news that the aide, Michael Kineavy, was possibly violating the public records law, and sought to imply that the e-mails contained nefarious doings with potential connections to former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson’s corruption case. For his part, Menino decried the allegations, said the public was not interested in the e-mail controversy as an issue, and like many politicians, whined about the horrible, no-good, terrible media for focusing on it.
Regardless, Menino’s opponents were missing the larger point: There was neither a conspiracy to delete the e-mails, nor was there anything particularly damning in them. But a public employee, and a very powerful one at that, was deleting on a frequent basis records that the public has a right to see, whether they even know they have that right under the public records law or not.
Many of the e-mails, at least the ones that the administration recovered and posted online in response to the controversy, were of the regular office variety. Missives on cupcakes down the hall, jokes about the FOIA law and St. Patty’s day, and an e-receipt for an unusually large order of horse heads. (We kid, Michael!) There were also e-mails with resumes attached, asking for Kineavy to take a look; a request for help in putting out a brush fire started by an obstinate union head; and electronic ankle bracelets, in the form of Google News alerts and other means, on Menino opponents Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon.
Attorney General Martha Coakley ruled last week that no charges were warranted. From her office’s press release: “Interviews with several City of Boston and Boston City Council employees revealed a misunderstanding among many employees about how the City’s e-mail system worked and how e-mails were maintained on that system. Based on these and other factors, no criminal charges are warranted against Kineavy because there was no evidence that Kineavy was knowingly ‘destroying’ his e-mails.”
Never mind its problems with voice mail, the administration was mired in “technological backwardness,” as the blog Bostonist put it during the 2009 election.
Supporters of Flaherty and Yoon will feel that Coakley gave the administration a pass. Menino supporters will feel vindicated and Kineavy is free to circulate his resume if he wants. Menino noted in his statement following Coakley’s announcement that because of the incident the city has invested $1.3 million in upgrading the e-mail systems. “We have instituted journaling in the e-mail system to provide a backup for our electronic public records,” he said. “In addition, working through the Law Department and the Archives and Records Advisory Commission, the City has adopted an e-mail policy and records retention schedule that includes electronic records and has instituted training for City departments.”
In short: no more technological backwardness. Let fly the FOIAs.
Quote of Note:
“Well, that’s the end of that,” one high-ranking State House lawmaker told the Herald this week. “All that work for nothing.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Material from State House News Service was used in this report. Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at dotnews.com/litdrop.
CLARIFICATION:The article originally quoted Senate President Murray as saying her members weren't interested in coming back. In fact, because of the number of no votes on the bill, she says the Senate can't come back specifically on the casino proposal.