Wouldn’t you know it? The first hearing scheduled on the “Racino Bill” is being held on Tuesday, April 26 and I’ll be at 32,000 feet or thereabouts on my way home from spending Easter weekend with my two younger sons in Nevada. Thankfully I know from my experience on Capitol Hill another lifetime ago, initial hearings are not usually very substantive. There will be the parade of witnesses on why the bill is a good idea and a parade of witnesses on why the bill is not a good idea. All will read from prepared remarks and will submit those remarks for the record – which is where I’ll be able to chew on them once they are transcribed and posted.
I have not seen a witness list yet, but I’m hopeful that one will be out before the hearing date, though I assume we will see a representative from Canterbury Park, Running Aces Harness Park, the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, an anti-gaming group and perhaps even a few Tribal chairpeople, though perhaps not. I would think the Lottery, slated to run this operation, could be involved as well.
Where the “pulse”, if you will, of the legislature will be able to be ascertained will be in the question and answer period. Depending upon where the softball questions are directed and where the more rigorous questions are directed, we will be able to have an idea of where this bill is heading.
There are rumblings that one side or the other is going to try and stack the spectator area but whatever happens in that regard, take it from me, the legislators and their staffs know what’s real and what is being manufactured. I remember being a staffer in the US House of Representatives back in the late 1980’s and attending a hearing on acid rain. It was apparent that the United Auto Workers had stacked the grandstand with members to show the overwhelming opposition to any kind of environmental protection legislation. You think that we on the Hill didn’t see through that? Of course we did and so will the legislators in St. Paul.
Ultimately this bill will move to victory or defeat based on the merits and the way it is shaped as it makes its way through the legislative process. The bill you see now may be very different than the one you will see should it make it to the floor of the State House and Senate. The mark-up sessions will be the ones to watch as Representative s and Senators add and subtract to the bill through the amendment process. In golf they say that you “drive for show and put for dough”; in the legislative process, these initial hearings are for show, but the amendment process will be where the “dough” is – where the bill will sink or swim.