State House Memo: Casino bill will help us solve critical problems
I have served the people of New Hampshire in a variety of positions. I’ve been a county attorney, city councilor and state representative.
All along I’ve followed the same guiding principle: The people I represent elected me to deal with challenges, issues and problems and work on solutions. And if I don’t do that, then I’m not doing what my constituents asked me to do.
Like so many of my colleagues, I came into this legislative session trying to solve the problems being faced by far too many of our citizens due to a lack of state funding for critical services and priorities.
A neglected mental health care system. A neglected higher education system. A neglected transportation infrastructure. And much more.
Everyone understands that increased revenue is needed to solve these challenges. But there is only one revenue source that will generate enough money and has enough bipartisan support to become law: licensing a casino through Senate Bill 152.
There is no doubt that SB 152 came over from the Senate with significant flaws, and for nearly a month, I have worked with colleagues from both parties to improve the legislation.
Together, 12 of us drafted an amendment that would strengthen oversight and regulation, increase the minimum capital expenditure made by casino owners, enhance protection for charitable gaming groups as well as existing entertainment venues, work with casino operators to hire New Hampshire residents, set prohibitions on the gaming industry contributing to elected officials or candidates and provide long-term protections for the state.
We looked at every aspect and spent a great deal of time working to make the bill tighter, better, stronger. In other words, we found solutions. The amendment provides a clear and deliberate process to license a first-class casino resort that is subject to detailed and comprehensive regulation.
No vote on amendment
The amendment was never put to a vote. By one vote, the committee decided to recommend rejecting the legislation without considering any amendments to improve it.
Many of the arguments made for killing the legislation, without trying to improve it, just don’t seem to make sense to me or the people I represent.
Some opponents have said, “Oh, a casino will create jobs, but they’re not the kind of jobs we want.”
I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family. I was the first member of our family to go to college. My family always lived paycheck to paycheck, in mobile homes and small row houses. To my family, the jobs at a casino would not only be good jobs, they would be great jobs.
Some opponents said that, even after weeks and weeks of work, we were going too quickly. Everything we’re asked to do is quick. We’re asked to do a two-year budget in a matter of a few months, and all of us spend a lot of late hours working on it. You could make the excuse we don’t spend enough time on anything, that we could spend days, years investigating, looking, prodding, changing, but that’s what happens in every subsequent legislature.
If we keep saying a piece of legislation is not ready yet, it won’t ever be ready and we won’t ever accomplish anything.
No bill that I’ve ever voted on in the House has been perfect, and this is no exception. It will never be perfect, but we’ve come a long way and we’ve moved this along. We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of what the people sent us to do.
This is what voters want
Our job as representatives is to listen to what people say and develop solutions that will work.
I listened to people in the last election, and they want to restore investments that will create jobs and strengthen New Hampshire’s future, and overwhelmingly there was support for a casino.
All the recent polls we’ve seen have shown there is overwhelming support for a casino here.
Without a casino, we will have no way to convince a conservative Senate to increase investments that will help address the problems we were elected to solve. Future budgets will be even more difficult, as we lose millions of dollars a year to Massachusetts casinos.
I hope and believe that my colleagues will listen to their constituents and work toward solutions by voting in support of an improved casino plan to fund investments we so desperately need.
(State Rep. Katherine Rogers is a Democrat from Concord.)