Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quinn wants gaming bill on his desk

By Jamey Dunn

Gov. Pat Quinn has grown impatient with efforts to work out a compromise over the massive gaming expansion passed in the closing days of the spring legislative session. Today, he called on lawmakers to send him the bill.

Senate President John Cullerton said last week that lawmakers are working on a follow-up bill that would tighten regulation on Senate Bill 744, which calls for creating five new casinos as well as allowing slot machines at horse racing tracks. Quinn has said that he supports a casino owned by the city of Chicago but called the bill top-heavy. He has complained this summer that the plan does not do enough to regulate the proposed expansion. “There are parts of that bill that are very important when it comes to ethics in government and ethics in business,” Quinn told reporters in Chicago today. “There are bad guys out there criminal elements — organized crime — that want to infiltrate. And we’re not going to let them do it.”

Knowing Quinn was not happy with the legislation as is, Cullerton put a parliamentary hold on the bill in the hopes of working out a deal. He said last week that he did not intend to release the bill until another measure was passed to tweak it. “That way, we have both bills on the governor’s desk at the same time. … We expect to do this all by the [end of] the [October] veto session.”

But today, Quinn said lawmakers should release the bill and let him take action. “I think they ought to send the bill to the governor the way it should be done all the time. They’ve had plenty of time, all summer long … to look at their handy work. When they send me the bill, they’ll get a prompt response. OK. And that’s how it works.”

When asked if the “prompt response” would be a veto, Quinn said: “I’ve had to veto bad bills, and sometimes in the veto message I lay out how they can improve their bill.”

However, the governor would not make a definitive statement on his plans for the legislation. “It’s a little hard to sign a bill when it’s not there.”

Quinn said that lawmakers’ reluctance to follow the standard legislative procedure and send him the bill for executive action might be an indication of its flaws. “If they think so little of the handiwork they did on May 31 that they don’t want to send it to the governor, shouldn’t that alert everyone that maybe there are some defects in that bill that need to be looked at?”

John Patterson, a spokesperson for Cullerton, said legislative leaders are still open to suggestions from Quinn. “The Senate president has met with the governor to explain the legislation and listen to his concerns. He’s all ears.”

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