April 18, 2003
casino bill takes 2 more hits, but still
By Bill Lawrence
Despite seeing his bill to
establish a state/tribal casino in the metro area suffer its third
within a week, House author Bill Haas, R-Champlin, told the media
break in the hearing that, “he was disappointed in the votes” but will
other opportunities” to revive it in the remaining four weeks of the
legislative session. Two of those votes came on Tuesday evening in the
Ways and Means Committee 13-7 against the bill and the House Finance
6-5 to delete it as an amendment to a finance bill. The third occurred
week in the House Governmental Operations and Veterans Affairs
Committee by a
vote of 10-8.
Red Lake and White Earth tribal
leaders told Press/ON immediately after the Tuesday votes that
disappointed, they praised Rep. Haas for all his work on the bill, and
they would continue to pursue it until they were successful. Red Lake
treasurer Darrell Seki told Press/ON, “we know this is the
to do, not only for the Red Lake and White Earth people, but also for
people of the state of Minnesota.”
Although support for the
tribal/state casino bill has primarily come from Republicans, in spite
contributions to their campaign coffers from the wealthy tribes there
a few notable Democratic exceptions, such as Sen. Sandy Pappas, St.
Reps. Phyllis Kahn, Mpls. and Keith Ellison, Mpls.
In addition, during deliberations
on the bill in the House Finance Committee, DFL Rep. Michael Paymar,
said that although he was voting against the bill he thought it was
the tribal/state gaming compacts be re-negotiated. Numerous other reps.
both sides of the aisle expressed a liking for the bill and said that
needed to done to make Indian gaming more equitable.
Sen. John Marty, D-Roseville, early in the session
bill to renegotiate the compacts.
Perhaps the most disturbing
statement made by opponents of the tribal/state casino bill was by Bill
D-Finlayson, who said during the House Finance Committee hearings that
“would only benefit a few rich white guys.” Noticeable gasps were heard
throughout the hearing room, in addition to the many who sat in obvious
bewilderment. House Finance Committee
chair and bill author Bill Haas later responded to Hilty that he was
offended by the remark, and he knew that would not be the case. But to
author, the remark shows the deep division the bill is causing to
this session as the pressure builds for the legislature to find sources
funds to deal with the budget deficits, while protecting the special
that put them in office.
The tribal-state casino bill calls for a tribally owned and
financed casino to be built, most likely in the northern suburbs, and
under the Minnesota Lottery. Initial
projects estimate development costs to be in the $350 million dollar
with the tribes and the state to split annual income of $300 to $400
dollars. Projections also indicate that
the tribal-state casino would create three to four thousand jobs. Red Lake and White Earth are the two largest
tribes in Minnesota, and represent nearly 70% of Minnesota’s Indian
Red Lake and White Earth tribal
officials told Press/ON before they headed home on Wednesday
would be meeting with their councils and legislative sponsors to
options left open to them for this session. Obviously one option is to
with the Racino bill that is successfully moving through the House and
for a floor vote next week.
The bill is called the Minnesota Gaming
Equity Act (HF 1020,
SF 966), and is posted online through the legislature’s “Minnesota
and Bill Status” website at http://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/legis.asp