The Senate’s big whiff

The process of passing legislation on Beacon Hill is a lot like a game of ping pong. The House passes a bill and sends it over to the Senate. The Senate tweaks the legislation and sends it back to the House. The back and forth goes on until final language is agreed upon. Then the two chambers bat the bill back and forth some more, preparing it for final passage.

The process broke down at the end of the legislative session with a bill to continue the status quo in horse racing for another year. The bill wasn’t an attempt to fix a long-ignored industry that is badly in need of an overhaul. It was strictly a housekeeping matter. It could have been handled at any time over the last several months.

The House passed the measure on July 25. The Senate didn’t take the bill up until Tuesday, the last day of the session, when it passed the legislation and batted it back to the House. The House added an emergency preamble to the law so it would take effect immediately after the governor signed it into law, and batted it back to the Senate.

At that point, however, the Senate whiffed. In the midst of the late-night rush to wrap up the legislative session, the horse-racing bill got lost in the shuffle. The time clock on the legislative session ran out, and with it the laws that allow live horse-racing in Massachusetts and simulcasting of horse races from around the country.

The whiff had real and immediate consequences. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Wednesday notified Suffolk Downs in East Boston and Plainridge Race Course in Plainville that they had to suspend simulcasting and live racing. Plainridge canceled the harness races scheduled for Thursday. Suffolk Downs, which is hosting races this weekend, feared those events would have to be canceled.

One would think the Senate would rush to correct its mistake once it got back to work in an informal session on Thursday, but things didn’t move all that quickly. The Senate session started at 11 a.m., but an emergency preamble to the racing legislation wasn’t approved until 12:46 p.m. The House enacted the bill at 12:54 p.m. and the Senate followed suit four minutes later. The governor signed the bill around 1:30. That’s fast by Beacon Hill standards, but keep in mind this was a simple, noncontroversial bookkeeping measure. Some observers on Beacon Hill wondered if some message was being sent with the horse racing legislation.

After the vote, Senate President Karen Spilka didn’t apologize for the chamber’s oversight. Indeed, she suggested to Colin Young of the State House News Service that the racing legislation was similar to a lot of other bills that failed to pass Tuesday night. “Just like every single year, we don’t always get to everything,” she said.

Incredibly, Young reported that it seemed as if Spilka didn’t realize the failure to pass the bill by the end of the session had forced businesses in the state to scramble.

A Boston Globe editorial said the horse-racing mixup “helped make the point that the slow pace on Beacon Hill and habitual last-minute rush just before the end of the session have become a problem.” No disagreement here, but the incident should also be a reminder to lawmakers: When you screw up, acknowledge the mistake and fix it as fast as possible.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

Lease negotiations between the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the nonprofit that operates the carousel in Hull keep going round and round. It’s been a long and tortuous process. (CommonWealth)

Work on an animal protection bill was wrapped up on Thursday and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk. (State House News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Something is going on in New Bedford. The city’s second downtown hotel made its official debut this week, and construction of single family homes tripled from 2016 to 2017. “There is a buzz in New Bedford,” said Lauren Liss, the CEO of MassDevelopment. “This city is alive.” (South Coast Today)

At a Boston City Council hearing, nonprofit organizations were pilloried for failing to make payments in lieu of taxes to the city. (Boston Herald)

About 30 protesters, mostly people of color, protested outside Faneuil Hall, named after slave owner Peter Faneuil, and called on Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to lead an effort to rename the building after Crispus Attucks. (MassLive)

The treasurer/collector of Sheffield has been on leave since June, and no one is talking about why or if he is still being paid. (Berkshire Eagle)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The Trump administration unveils its plan to ease car pollution rules. (New York Times) Gov. Charlie Baker joins a long list of people and groups opposed to the president’s move. (State House News)

Nebraska’s Catholic governor, Pete Ricketts, said the Pope’s opposition to capital punishment won’t stop the state’s first execution in 21 years. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

It’s a progressive face-off in the race for district attorney in Middlesex County between incumbent Marian Ryan and challenger Donna Patalano. Ryan insists she is the “proven progressive.” (CommonWealth)

Greg Henning, a candidate for Suffolk County district attorney, proposes the creation of a unit to investigate unsolved shootings, even if no one was injured. (Boston Globe) Tito Jackson endorses Rachel Rollins in the Suffolk County DA’s race. (Boston Globe)

“Longevity in politics is not what it used to be,” says Lowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas. Nevertheless, he backs incumbent Secretary of State William Galvin over challenger Josh Zakim, who was just 10 when Galvin first took office.

Steve Koczela of the MassINC Polling Group dissects polling data suggesting younger Democrats want to push the party in new directions. (WBUR)

Gary Rucinski explains why he is running against US Rep. Joseph Kennedy. (CommonWealth)

Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose of Amherst said he will not seek reelection. (MassLive)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Developers are trying to entice people to work in the suburbs of Boston, even if they live in the city. (Boston Globe)

Apple became the first publicly traded company to have a worth greater than $1 trillion. (New York Times)

Brookstone filed for bankruptcy and said it plans to close its mall stores. (WGBH)

CVS is buying Gloucester’s last independent drug store. (Gloucester Times)

EDUCATION

Jennifer Braceras, a former trustee of the University of Massachusetts, condemns what she calls a smear campaign by adjunct professors against UMass President Marty Meehan. (Boston Globe)

Easthampton’s private Tri-County Schools will remain closed for at least a year in the wake of a report that said staffers abused and neglected special ed students. (MassLive)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Hospital leaders are frustrated that health care legislation failed to make it across the finish line on Beacon Hill. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

A Taunton woman riding as a passenger in a car in Brockton said she was attacked by the driver of another car in an apparent road rage incident. The woman suffered a broken arm. (The Enterprise)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung lauds the Trustees of Reservations for its plan to build a 15-acre waterfront park on the site of a rotting pier owned by Massport in East Boston.

CASINOS

Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi predicts Wynn Resorts will retain its casino license, but she wonders whether the state ever needed casinos at all.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Accused murderer Brian Chevalier wrote a letter to the Eagle-Tribune saying the death of his ex-fiance could have been avoided if he was given the treatment in prison he needed.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the city is launching a full-scale body camera program. (Boston Globe)

A lawsuit by a pair of former workers — one white, one black — alleges a sexist and racist environment at the Boston Water and Sewer Commission. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

An email to staff from Vinay Mehra, the Boston Globe’s president and chief financial officer, reports that Stat, the company’s health care vertical, is booming. Design New England magazine, however, has been shut down. (Media Nation)