Cuomo’s stealth casino legislation

January 22, 2012 6:32 am

Is this what passes for democracy in New York these days?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has quietly set about trying to change New York’s Constitution to legalize casinos. Amazingly, the change to Article I of the Constitution was not announced by the governor and amounts to all of eight words - for now. 

Cuomo’s amendment provides no details regarding this major policy shift that requires amending the Constitution. For example, there is no language regarding how many casinos will be allowed; where the casinos will be located; how will the casinos be regulated; or how will the casino licenses be issued. Never mind an independent cost-benefit analysis that considers the economic and social costs of a major expansion in gambling. Details, details.

Cuomo’s stealth effort is rightly receiving some pushback from state lawmakers. Of course, this is how the casino sausage often gets made. In Pennsylvania, lawmakers voted in the middle of night on July 4, 2004 to legalize 61,000 slot machines – more than any state but Nevada. The bill was later amended to allow full-blown casinos. 

Here’s how the League of Women Voters described the process: What began as a one-page, unrelated bill, became145 pages of legislation. Legislators voted on this substitute amendment within a matter of hours. There were no public hearings, no committee votes – no real opportunity for citizens to provide meaningful input into the details of the bill. This procedure constituted an end run around the PA Constitution which specifies that bills be considered on three separate days in both the House and Senate before final passage.

Looks like Cuomo is headed down the same path. New York deserves better.

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