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Amid frustration, debate on casinos is halted for the day

Republicans urge discussion of tax cut proposals

By Noah Bierman
Globe Staff / June 26, 2010

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Three days of state Senate debate on expanded gambling came to an abrupt halt yesterday afternoon, just as lawmakers appeared poised to approve the licensing of three casinos.

Senate minority leader Richard R. Tisei, frustrated that Democrats would not debate Republican proposals to cut taxes, used a parliamentary procedure to shut the debate down for the day.

The Senate plans to resume debate this morning, but Senate President Therese Murray cautioned that a vote would probably not come immediately.

“We’ve got a ways to go, a couple more days,’’ she said as she walked away from reporters.

Tisei and other Republicans said they have been stymied for more than a year, and again yesterday, in their efforts to debate a sales tax reduction, property tax reductions, and other issues central to the party’s platform.

Republicans said they should be able to vote on the tax proposals as amendments to the gambling bill, because casinos would purportedly generate millions in new revenue the state could dedicate to tax relief.

“Most of the issues around casinos have been debated,’’ Tisei said. “What’s left is where the money’s going to go.’’

Before debate was halted yesterday, senators continued making their way through more than 100 amendments.

Many were filed by opponents attempting to either curb or kill casinos.

Senator Robert L. Hedlund, a Weymouth Republican, proposed a measure to reduce the number of authorized casinos in the bill from three to one, allowing expansion after 10 years of operation “to teach us to crawl before we walk or run.’’ The proposal failed.

Senator Patricia D. Jehlen, a Somerville Democrat, authored a failed proposal to force casinos to close between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. daily, as a deterrent to addiction.

“Casinos should have to close in order to give gamblers a break,’’ she said.

Tisei, a gambling proponent, offered his own tongue-in-cheek proposal to ban trans fats from being sold in casinos, an effort, he said, to draw attention to the “nanny state’’ mentality of some of his colleagues who have proposed limits on drinking in casinos, as well as warning stickers on slot machines.

To Tisei’s surprise, a few senators embraced the trans fat ban, offering him facetious praise on the Senate floor.

“The minority leader has finally seen the light of day,’’ said Senator Susan C. Fargo, a Lincoln Democrat. “He understands that trans fats are not an actual food. They’re a man-made product to make money.’’

But it was not enough. The trans fat ban failed, 34-4.

Noah Bierman can be reached at nbierman@globe.com.

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