BOSTON (AP) — House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he could not guarantee that expanded gambling legislation that legislators and Gov. Deval Patrick hope will help boost the state's economy will pass this year.
"Would I definitively say, 'Yes we are going to have a bill by the end of this week?' No, I probably couldn't say that," DeLeo said Monday.
DeLeo made his comment just before he and Senate President Therese Murray hunkered down in Murray's office with Democratic members of a House and Senate panel charged with negotiating a final compromise version of the bill.
The meeting broke up after an hour.
Late Monday an aide to DeLeo confirmed that an offer had been made by the Senate. That offer was rejected by House negotiators who made a counteroffer, which was rejected by the Senate. DeLeo spokesman Seth Gitell said negotiations would continue Tuesday. He did not provide details of the offers.
Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, the chief negotiator for Senate, confirmed an offer was made to the House and that the House made a counteroffer, which the Senate found not acceptable. The Amherst Democrat said talks will continue.
"The bad news is that there is not agreement," he said. "The good news is that the lines of negotiations are still open."
Before heading into the meeting, DeLeo said that although he couldn't guarantee a casino bill, legislators were still working diligently to reach a compromise. He said it was a good sign that they continue to talk.
"I think there is a desire to get something done," DeLeo said. "But there are some differences of opinion."
The House passed a plan calling for two resort-style casinos and slots at the state's four race tracks. The Senate plan calls for three resort-style casinos, but no slots at the tracks.
The two sides have until July 31, when the session ends, to get a bill to Patrick's desk.
DeLeo is a strong supporter of slots at racetracks, while Senate President Therese Murray maintains that "racinos" do not produce jobs and hurt the economic environment around the tracks.
The governor has also started to temper expectations that he will get a casino bill to sign, saying that even if expanding gambling legislation does not pass, the current legislative session has been a success.
"This has been a very productive legislative session already," he said.
Patrick cited laws to overhaul the state's ethics rules, pension system, education and transportation as legislative accomplishments in the last two years. Patrick called the last two sessions two of the most productive in decades.
The governor said the gambling bill was one of four pieces of legislation he wants to see passed to create job growth in the state.
"I still want to see this outstanding business finished by the end of the session," the governor said.
The two Republicans on the gambling conference committee — Sen. Richard Ross of Wrentham and Rep. Paul Frost of Auburn — were barred from the meeting in Murray's office, even though all four of the Democrats on the committee were inside. Murray said the meeting was not a conference committee meeting.
"Being excluded is something that we didn't expect," Ross said.
Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei, R-Wakefield, said his party deserves a say in the final outcome.
"It's pretty pathetic that it's come down to this, where decisions on a proposal that will dramatically impact the landscape of the entire state are being made behind closed doors without input from Republican members," Tisei said.