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Murray: Casino plan earns trust

HYANNIS – The Legislature has taken great effort to restore public trust and the pending casino legislation is an example of that work, Senate President Therese Murray said Wednesday.

Murray met with the Times editorial board Wednesday in a wide-ranging interview that included casinos, redistricting, economic development, wind energy, wastewater treatment, nuclear power and other issues facing the Cape and state.

Once legislators approve a final expanded gambling bill, they are removed from having any more influence on expanded gambling, she said. The governor, treasurer and attorney general will appoint a gaming commission that has oversight and enforcement powers “on steroids,” she said.

Only the commission will have the authority to regulate and license the three resort casinos and the slot parlor included in the legislation, Murray said.

The Senate version of the bill also calls for a one-year gap for legislators to work in the casino industry, something Murray said she hopes remains in the final bill being ironed out by a conference committee. She defended the Senate’s decision to reduce that period from the stricter five years that was proposed, saying politicians deserve an opportunity to work once they leave office.

Senators are already precluded from discussing interest in a job while they’re in office, she said. “You have to sit with ethics, and they have to go over everything you worked on,” she said.

A controversial amendment that would restore happy hours in restaurants so they could compete with free drinks at casinos won’t likely survive in the compromise bill, Murray said. “I understand the argument of a level playing field, but going back to happy hours would be insane,” she said.

The compromise bill is expected to emerge in the next week, she said.

Any notion that Murray influenced how the congressional district lines were drawn so she could run for the 9th District seat are unfounded, she said, declaring she has no interest in joining the gridlock in Washington.

The newly formed 9th district includes all of her current Senate district, as did the 10th, but adds New Bedford and surrounding communities considered more liberal by some.

“We have been vilified as to why we didn’t do an independent commission on redistricting,” Murray said. “The Constitution leaves it in our hands, and I think that (the redistricting committee) did an outstanding job.”

On the economy, Murray said the state’s unemployment rate is better than the national average. Successful casino legislation would put construction workers back on the job and initiatives such as Open Cape – the plan to bring broadband across the Cape Cod Canal – should improve the ability of people to stay and work on Cape, she said.

“We are cooking at a pretty high temperature,” she said.

Still, the state’s community colleges and vocational schools could do more to train people for skilled, high-tech jobs that don’t necessarily require degrees, she said.

Meanwhile, there is no relief in sight for Cape homeowners paying the state’s highest home insurance premiums, Murray said.

The change in auto insurance regulations did not result in more insurance companies offering home insurance as predicted, she said. “That was a big disappointment,” she said.

And, while she was speaking about the impact of weather, Murray railed against the electric utilities and how long it took to restore power in the aftermath of recent storms. Companies like NStar have cut staff and aren’t doing enough maintenance to prevent outages, she said. “They’re awash in dough,” she said of the utilities. “Why can’t they get people’s power back in a reasonable time?”

Staff writer Patrick Cassidy contributed to this report.


On the relicensing of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth: “The NRC has to have far more oversight before relicensing. They need to ask: What have you fixed? What are the backups?”

On dealing with the NRC: “It’s frustrating beyond belief.”
On the future of Barnstable County government: “You actually have agencies and provide services to people – things other counties don’t do anymore.”
On the need for $200 million a year in new revenue to pay for drinking water and clean water infrastructure on Cape: That is a “big ask.”
On her political future: She plans to run for state Senate again and has learned her lesson from last year’s narrow victory over Sandwich Republican Thomas Keyes, she said. “I was working, but I wasn’t paying attention to the local politics. We’re now letting people know what I’m doing.”
On a wind energy siting bill before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy: “If it gets through, it will be greatly changed.”
On the Quinn Bill: A college degree should become an entry-level requirement for a police officer and entry pay should be raised, she said: “I believe police officers should be professional, they should have degrees, and they should be paid for it.”
On Facebook, Twitter and other social media: They’ve become essential way to provide constituent services, she said. “It’s not always as civil as face-to-face or phone conversations.”