Sunday, November 16, 2008

Deadline Slows Casinos by James M. Odato -- Times Union - Albany NY

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Legal sleuths recently delivered bad news for those eager to enact a constitutional change that would allow commercial casinos in New York.

A bit of research by Bennett Liebman, executive director of the Government Law Center of Albany Law School, and Senate Republican lawyers independently found that lawmakers have been incorrectly saying that an amendment could be on the ballot next November. In fact, the soonest that such a proposal could be on the ballot is 2011, according to these lawyers.

The perception — now being identified as a misconception — is that as long as the Legislature voted this year and next it would be two separately elected bodies in agreement and enough for a ballot issue next fall.

The newly uncovered facts: There must be three months between the initial passage of the amendment and the date of the succeeding general election — meaning the Legislature missed its opportunity by not acting this summer.

"You have to give 90 days' notice," said Sen. John Bonacic, R-Sullivan County, who said he got the briefing a month ago from Senate lawyer Michael Avella. He said the situation was not brought to the attention of advocates and is a surprised.

Advocates theorized that after two budget seasons of bloody state budget cuts, the public would quickly authorize slots and table games to get state revenues and stimulate job growth.

Liebman re-read the law after noting the buzz about a possible first passage during the upcoming Nov. 18 legislative session. "We may have to wait a little longer," Bonacic said.

That's Hospitality

The hotel trades council — another group eager for casino and hotel construction — worked hard on the campaigns of three downstate Senate Democratic candidates, and helped two newcomers defeat Republicans. The council sent 150 union members to work on Joseph Addabbo's run against Sen. Serphin Maltese in Queens, and 20 to staff Brian Foley's contest against Sen. Caesar Trunzo on Long Island. They also loaned Addabbo a union official.

Another 50 hotel unionists worked for James Gennaro in his quest to unseat Sen. Frank Padavan, the Legislature's top gambling foe. The council gave at least $34,500 to the trio. John Turchiano, a spokesman, said the goal is a racino at Belmont and Catskills casinos and hotels.