House Majority Leader Al Carlson’s casino measure received a DO NOT PASS recommendation from the House Judiciary Committee late Wednesday on a vote of 13-2. Not only was the measure overwhelmingly rejected, no amendments were adopted. As the saying goes, you can try to put lipstick on a pig I guess. Decency seems to have prevailed for the moment. However, the measure still needs to be defeated on the House floor where Carlson carries a lot of influence.
Rep. Carlson has thrown out a number of reasons why he chose to introduce this measure late in the session. The state needs revenue. The people of North Dakota like to gamble. The state could potentially use this as a means to eliminate income taxes. The change would establish casinos as “destination-oriented attractions” and foster rural economic development. All of these have been used by Carlson as a cover for the public display of retribution toward North Dakota tribes. A convenient “glitch” prevented the public from knowing about this measure for days which allowed ample time for him to float other reasons to see which one would stick.
Wednesday’s amendment offered by Carlson eliminated damn near every excuse he could cook up for this measure. His amendment would have allowed for privately owned casinos to be built almost anywhere, including our major urban areas. It is tough to argue with a straight face this was ever intended to bring in new revenue for the state to combat the abysmal budget situation Carlson’s leadership has produced if the state is merely regulating privately owned casinos. Perhaps he should also explain how this was to be a rural economic development plan after he flip-flopped and asked permission to allow casinos in our major cities with his proposed amendment.
The two members who voted against the DO NOT PASS recommendation are Rep. Andrew Maragos of Minot and freshman Rep. Jake Blum of Grand Forks. It will be interesting to see which bogus cover Carlson uses when this DO NOT PASS recommendation is debated in the House chamber. Kudos to the House members who were able to read between the lines in this committee.