Even as the storm about expanded gambling is about to break over the New Hampshire political landscape, the Senate Ways and Means Committee, by a 4-1 vote this week, has wisely come down hard against a bit of silliness proposed by Laconia Senator Andrew Hosmer and Donna Soucy of Manchester. Senate Bill 63, with one of the most misleading explanations ever to come down the pike, "allowing historical racing", was merely an attempt to foist slot machines upon us under another name.
Take my word for it because I was on the House Local and Regulated Revenues Committee when this insane idea surfaced two terms ago. We sat through endless hours of explanations and prevarications; we were even treated to "a dog and pony show" before we voted against it by a wide margin, and still proponents insisted on a floor fight after lobbyists had inundated House members with misleading pieces of mail to their homes day after day. I seem to recall another Manchesterite, Ward 1 firefighter Dan Sullivan, as leading the fight at the time; I know because I was assigned the task of cutting through all the smoke and mirrors and letting the House know what it was really all about; we won big!
From the title, one would think that actual racing is involved.
One would be wrong. Old races are simply offered up for gambling as one would play a slot machine; we learned that you don't actually watch the race; it can pass by as quickly as the lemons and cherries spinning around in a slot machine.
It's tomfoolery of the highest order, and lobbyists (no names please) proved masters of prevarication when the bill was in front of the House. I spoke with former Local and Regulated Revenues Chair Mary Beth Walz; she said she recalled the bill, but wasn't aware of it being back before the Senate. Thanks to WBIN 10 p.m. news (a good watch), I sure was, and was amused by what the Senate did to it.
We can understand why Hosmer would propose such a weird and outlandish idea (it's a sop to the Belmont greyhound track which is in his district), but it's hard to fathom why Soucy, supposedly a bright young woman--she was paid more than $100,000 a year as chief of staff in the Senate when this bill was defeated last time--would sign on to such an idea. Her support will most certainly take her credibility down a notch or two on issues to come; she should have known better. (But of course, any one of the 424 of us is entitled to sponsor anything; the next time someone complains about nonsense or nuisance legislation, think of this as something we allow).
Three of the Senate votes against this bit of nonsense were from avowed expanded gambling supporters--Soucy's friend and mentor Lou D'Allesandro; Chuck Morse of Salem; and Jim Rausch of Derry. From their vote, it was clear that they don't want any distractions from the real gambling bills to come.
The other vote against SB63 was from gambling opponent Bob O'Dell; the lone vote in favor was from Hosmer. It'll be interesting to see what the total is on the Senate floor. I'd "wager" that we won't get a recorded vote.
Still on the gambling front, this blog (that would be I) has learned that noses have been counted in the Senate, and the votes are there for the D'Allesandro/Morse-type bill to pass. With support from Governor Maggie Hassan, the bill will only be stopped in the House.
Prediction--the House will once again say no. It's hard to tell with 200 new members; the full court press will be on and proponents will plead poverty (as in lack of monies to fund vital state services), but from the newbies I've spoken to, the majority will not be convinced...just like a majority of veterans of the House has never been convinced before.
Let the arm twisting begin!
At least we can be thankful that the chicanery of "historical racing" from the Belmont folks has been laid to the rest it so richly deserves.