Casino Bill Roll Call and Flip Floppers

The biggest problem with the Massachusetts House of Representatives is that representatives are more afraid of crossing the Speaker than crossing the voters. They will take votes which they know are unpopular with voters in their district and which they don’t agree with themselves in order to make sure that they are in the good graces of the current Speaker.

Today the Speaker is Robert DeLeo. DeLeo’s father Al spent 50 years working the floor of the Turf Club at Suffolk Downs. Protecting and expanding gambling in Massachusetts is a personal mission for DeLeo. And, as Speaker, DeLeo controls who in the House gets to be part of his ‘leadership team,’ who gets the committee chairmanships, and who gets invited to the closed door meetings where the real policy of the legislature gets decided.

Legislators are more afraid of the consequences of crossing DeLeo on this issue than they are of crossing the voters.

The previous Speaker, DiMasi, was hard against expanded gambling, so our spineless legislators then voted against gambling by increasing margins each year it came up in a race to be the most loyal, and become chosen as part of the previous leadership circle.

Whether you are for or against the casino bill, voters should know which legislators have been voting on principle, and which are willing to compromise principle to get along in the legislature.

The casino bill has come before the legislature every session for the past several years. During that time, as the Speaker has changed and his position changed, consistently voting either “yes” or “no” would have put a legislator on the wrong side of the leadership at some point. So whether your legislator is for or against the bill, anyone voting consistently is at least voting on principle. ( Or if voting yes consistently, it’s possible they’ve been in the pockets of casino interests the entire time. You decide. )

The consistent no votes are: Balser, Bosley, Brownsberger, Callahan, Conroy, D’Amico, Finegold, Garballey, Guyer, Kaufman, Malia, Patrick, Peake, Pignati, Provost, Rodrigues, Rogers, Rushing, Sanchez, Scaccia, Sciortino, Smizik, St. Fleur, Torrisi, Walz, Wolf, deMacedo, Smola.

The consistent yes votes are: Allen, Calter, Canessa, Creedon, DeLeo, DiNatale, Flynn, Fresolo, Garry, Koczera, McCarthy, Naughton, Nyman, O’Day, Puppolo, Quinn, Rice, Rush, Sandlin, Smith, Thomas Stanley, Timilty, Toomey, Wallace, Martin Walsh, Jones, Peterson, Barrows, Frost, Gifford, Hill, Humason, Perry, Webster.

The following legislators voted against the casino bill when DiMasi was Speaker, and have now changed their votes to please the new Speaker DeLeo. They may tell you that they’ve changed their minds for some other reason. It’s baloney. The truth is they know how to play the game down at the statehouse, and that means being responsive to the Speaker and insider interests more than being responsive to voters.

The flip-floppers are: Aguiar, Alicea, Atkins, Basile, Cabral, Campbell, Clark, Coakley-Rivera, Costello, DeLeo, Dempsey, Donato, Donelan, Fernandes, Forry, Golden, Grant, Haddad, Harkins, Honan, Kane, Keenan, Khan, Kocot, Koutoujian, Kulik, Linsky, L’Italien, McMurtry, Miceli, Moran, Charles Murphy, James Murphy, Kevin Murphy, Nangle, O’Flaherty, Pedone, Piesch, Petrolati, Richardson, Sannicandro, Scibak, Speliotis, Spellane, Speranzo, Harriet Stanley, Story, Straus, Swan, Tobin, Vallee, Wagner, Welch

(I got these lists from, who have their own analysis as well)

Each of these lap-dogs has a different story. Let’s touch on a few.

Ellen Story

Ellen Story: She’s been a representative for 17 years. She comes from Amherst, a university town dominated by the “5 colleges”. It’s a very liberal district, and Story has an extremely progressive voting record. She has been on the outside almost the entire time she has been in the legislature. She was one of only 15 brave Democrats to vote in favor of retaining an 8 year term limit for the House Speaker. And for her opposition to the Speaker she has has never been awarded a single committee assignment in all her long years in the legislature.

But now she thinks she may have learned to play the game – you have to go along with the Speaker. And for her cooperation she has been rewarded finally with a committee chairmanship – 4th Floor Division chair. It’s not a powerful position, but it pays a bonus and reports directly to the Speaker.

And I guess she’s not about to mess that up this time. She was quick to change her position on casinos to make sure she keeps it.

Like the autistic kid on the playground, it looks like she doesn’t really know how the game is played. While most of the flip floppers have been savvy enough to tell the public that their changed positions are due to the worsening economy, Story has been telling the unvarnished truth:

“After 17 years of being on the outside, I finally have a seat at the table. I’m part of the group of eight people that meets with him two hours every week, and this bill was going to pass. And for me to vote a symbolic and meaningless ‘no’ seemed like a foolish thing to do on my part. I think I bring something to the table in these small meetings, and there are other issues besides gambling that I care very much about.”

Doh. You’re not supposed to tell the voters that. When asked about the casino bill she reportedly told DeLeo:

“I’ve always been opposed [to casinos and slots], but if you need my vote, I’m there.”

Ellen’s liberal constituents are also opposed to casinos too, and I’m betting they are disappointed that she sold them out.

Did she really say that she is trading her integrity for two hours a week with his Holiness the Speaker? What Ellen may not know is that while she may be invited to the meetings, DeLeo is doing all the talking and none of the listening. One wonders how long she’s going to be invited to these meetings if she can’t be relied on to keep secrets.

But lets not be too hard on her, she has voted on principle for 17 years, and at least she told the truth about her vote on the casino bill.

Michael Jonas has more on it.

Eugene O'Flaherty

Eugene O’Flaherty: He has been a perennial lap dog of Speakers for many sessions now, so I wasn’t surprised to see him on this list.

O’Flaherty was elected Representative in Chelsea and Charlestown in 1997, by the thinnest of margins – 129 votes. But he learned quickly how to play the game – voting consistently with then Speaker Finneran. But he really stepped up his game when he hired Alexis Finneran, the Speaker’s niece as his chief of staff. Soon after, he was rewarded with one of the most powerful chairmanships in the legislature – Judiciary. Not bad for three years.

Since then he has been yapping at the heels of every speaker – Finneran, DiMasi, and now DeLeo. And as the speakers have changed, so has O’Flaherty’s positions.

Finneran was an opponent of gay marriage – and so was O’Flaherty. But today O’Flaherty supports gay marriage, because so does DeLeo. He used to oppose the casino bill, but today he supports it.

If there is one interest O’Flaherty is passionate about, and will stick to principle on – it’s protecting the interests of trial lawyers. He’s famous for blocking bills such as Melanie’s Law and Jessica’s Law, because mandatory sentences for drunk drivers and child murderers is bad for the fraternity of trial lawyers.

Complete Casino Bill Roll Call:

You can find the exact roll call here: H4619 casino bill roll call

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