Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Constitutional, Shmonstitutional: Let the People Vote! (So Sayeth RI Dems)

"Harrah's casino plan is unconstitutional" is what the opinion/commentary piece in Monday's ProJo read. "This will come as a great surprise to many," wrote Joe Larisa Jr., former chief of staff and executive counsel to Gov. Lincoln Almond, "For a casino to be legal under the Rhode Island Constitution, it must be operated by the State of Rhode Island (through the Lottery Commission or other state entity) -- not by a private entity, such as Harrah's." Thus, the proposed Harrah's casino is unconstitutional.But do any of us think that makes a difference? I didn't think so. My cynical, but unfortunately realistic, feeling that the General Assembly et al, led by Senate President Joseph Montalbano would not be bothered by something simply being illegal was confirmed later in the day. Montalbano appeared on Dan Yorke's show on WPRO yesterday afternoon and said (and I'm paraphrasing) that something such as the constitutionality of the question offered in a referendum could be decided after the vote. Hmm. So, a legal body, comprised mostly of lawyers, sees nothing wrong with placing a question on the ballot asking for voter opinion on a patently unconstitutional issue? Is there any doubt that this Casino question is bringing out everything that is wrong with politics in this state?

Governor Carcieri reacted by asking that the State Supreme Court take up the question, and they agreed to a hearing on August 6. Now, the Gov. already vetoed the original bill, but everyone, including the Governor, know that his veto will be overridden by the Legislature. But it's not just the legislature that wants to "let the people vote" (sounds so egalitarian, doesn't it...). Democrat Attorney General Patrick Lynch has gone on record with his belief that the Governor shouldn't ask for the Court's intervention this late in the game. While Lynch also ultimately opposes having a casino in Rhode Island because "It's a question of crime," as he told the Providence Journal. He has heard from the AG's of other states that "In any jurisidiction that has it . . . there is a correlative increase in crimes and the number of cases that we would have to prosecute and the ills associated with gaming . . . whether it is white-collar crime, or obtaining money under false pretenses, embezzlement, bankruptcies, drugs." (again, from the ProJo story.)

So why does Lynch oppose the Governor's request?
Lynch labeled the timing of the governor's request premature because the legislature has not yet had its last say on the vetoed casino-referendum bill; the request puts the Supreme Court in a position of issuing an opinion on an issue it may be asked to review later "in a litigated case;" and because the wording of the governor's letter to the court makes it appear "the governor is using his executive authority to persuade the court to exert pressure on the legislature."

His first point is moot because the general assembly will overturn the veto before the Court hears the arguments, and the second point sounds like an excercise in legal semantics. I think what Lynch is really looking to do is oppose the Governor somehow on this issue because, frankly, I think our AG has visions of the Governor's office dancing in his head (his brother is the Chair of the RI Dem's, btw).

Meanwhile, it seems that Harrah's has an interesting employee qualification requirement.
What might be in store for people looking to work at the proposed Harrah's West Warwick casino? If the hiring is anything like what Harrah's has done at some of its facilities, cocktail waitresses would have to "audition" for their jobs in swimsuits. Once hired, they would be required to wear makeup, mascara, lipstick, heels, and have their hair styled a particular way.
That's from today's Journal. Sounds like something every liberated gal in liberal Rhody would love to endure for a "good-paying" job at a Casino, huh? Hey, I know it's a bit of a cheap shot, but if people really want one of these dens of debauchery in this state, they better be prepared.

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