Each Friday, Paul McMorrow will take you inside the smoke-filled rooms and darkly-lit corridors of government to bring you the hottest and juiciest political tidbits. This week: Coastal legislators are peeved, casino proponents are suspicious, and the new Pike Director offers a bleak, yet highly quotable, assessment.
These are strange times for the state’s coastal legislators. First, in November, they were subjected to an energy bill sneak attack that opened up their coastlines to unfettered wind farm development. They balked, as did the Senate, which had been pushing an oceans management bill authored by Senator Robert O’Leary […] as a way to set up a framework for plopping turbines down in the water.
The senate had threatened to hold Sal DiMasi’s energy bill hostage if the House didn’t act on their oceans bill, so House leadership pushed a gutted, bizzaro version of the senate’s bill to the floor last week.
“It’s not much of an oceans bill,” O’Leary told us. “It doesn’t set up a meaningful planning process that has any teeth, and without that, it’s just an exercise, something that ends up on a shelf. I’m disappointed.”
O’Leary did pronounce himself “optimistic” that he’ll be able to bring the House around in conference committee. But until he does, don’t expect to see too much action coming out of the energy conference committee.
The House’s coastal delegation feels even less sanguine about the whole exercise. They’d begged and pleaded to get an audience with the Speaker after the energy bill fiasco. When they finally did meet, they were told to expect a full debate on the turbine amendment. Instead, what they got was a chance to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on a bid by Dartmouth Rep. John Quinn to strike the turbine language from the House version.
“The coastal reps are not happy at all,” says a House source. “There’s outrage. There was tremendous pressure brought to bear on people over this.”
“The whispers on the floor were, ‘Quinn is right, but I’m not crossing the Speaker on this one,’” another House source adds.
The wild card in all this outrage soup: With energy and oceans both in conference committee, there’s been speculation that the House could be playing ball on the Buzzard’s Bay turbines on two fields at once. We’ve also heard speculation that, if a logjam develops, the Senate might be willing to trade its more robust oceans bill for the House’s wind amendment—provided the House takes clear ownership of the thing by reinserting it into its signature energy initiative.
Wire services contributed to this report.
By Paul McMorrow
22 February 2008
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