Recent actions by casino proponents in the House of Representatives have prompted suggestions that there may be a more fitting slogan for the pro-casino effort than “Let the people decide.” A more appropriate slogan might be “We're going to make you an offer you can't refuse.”
State Rep. Dottie Sims (D-Horse Cave) was one of five state lawmakers on the House Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee who voted against casino legislation being pushed by Speaker of the House Jody Richards (D-Bowling Green), causing it, along with a competing casino bill, to fail. Sims then went about the rest of her business, until, later in the day, when she found herself sleeping with the fishes.
Sims got word in the afternoon that several members of House Democratic leadership had thrown her off the committee and replaced her with two other legislators. It could be that these House leaders were simply acting in accordance with the old Sicilian adage: “Women are more dangerous than shotguns.” In any case, another committee meeting was quickly called, and Richards casino bill was passed.
The lesson can’t have been lost on rank and file House members, who have to see the actions taken against Sims as a sign of what may happen to them should they go against the will of the Speaker, who led the move against Sims.
In fact, some legislators might be advised to check under their sheets in the morning at their Frankfort hotels. According to recent news reports, there is an oversupply of retired thoroughbreds, and the horse industry is at a loss as to what to do with them. The casino industry can’t fail to have asked why they shouldn’t be employed to further the pro-casino cause, and whether, if the horse industry really means business, they don’t have a few horse heads they can spare.
There are, after all, those in House Democratic leadership with the requisite skills to do what needs to be done. Charlie Hoffman (D-Georgetown), the House Caucus Chairman, and one of the three members involved in giving Sims the axe, is one of them.
He is a professional meat cutter.
One serious problem casino forces have faced is the lack of internal cohesion. There has been increasing dissension among Democratic House leadership on how to approach the issue, resulting in an internal split between the families—er, rather, factions. The dominant faction seem to be the one led by Richards, whose legislation does not guarantee that casinos will be run by the horse tracks. Despite repeated attempts by Beshear to bring the warring parties to agreement have failed. In a recent meeting in the Governor’s office, he tried, unsuccessfully in the end, to impress upon them the importance of unity and cooperation.
This prompts the obvious question: Was cannoli served at this meeting?
The strong-arm tactics of House Democratic leadership stacking the House committee resulted in approval of the bill, but most observers think the infighting between different pro-casino factions has doomed the legislation. In light of all this, what might be the next step for groups like the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), which has been pushing casino legislation? Since things are not going its way, is there a chance it might become more aggressive?
In their last attempt to impress lawmakers, they organized their members for a day at the capitol. KEEP members arrived in riding gear and other horse paraphernalia, with their shiny trucks and horse trailers. Look for the next KEEP rally to feature long dark sedans carrying men wearing trench coats and wielding violin cases.
Of course, casino advocates will bristle at comparisons to the Godfather. And they may have a case. After all, anyone viewing recent events in the House will have noticed one obvious difference between pro-casino Democrats in the House and organized crime: House Democrats are clearly not organized.
Still, there are a few things they’re going to have to explain. One of them is the day Beshear chose to officially launch casino legislation: February 14.
St. Valentines Day.