By Jamey Dunn
As expected, Gov. Pat Quinn today vetoed a gaming expansion bill that was sent to his desk more than a year and a half after the measure passed.
The Senate approved Senate Bill 744 on the last day of the spring legislative session in 2011. The proposal called for five new casino licenses, along with slot machines at horse racing tracks and the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Senate President John Cullerton put a procedural hold on the bill because Quinn had made his distaste for the plan public, calling it "top heavy." Quinn voiced a particular disdain for allowing slot machines at the fairgrounds. Cullerton and supporters of the plan had hoped to work out a compromise with the governor. But Quinn called for them to send the bill and let him rewrite it with his veto power.
Instead, proponents of a gaming expansion backed away from SB 744 and threw support behind another bill that they viewed as a compromise. Legislators approved SB 1849 on the last day of the regular spring session of 2012. Quinn vetoed that bill, and lawmakers did not take a vote to override his veto.
“Everybody, including us, knew that he was going to veto [SB 744]. It was just when he was going to veto it,” said Waukegan Democratic Sen. Terry Link, who sponsored both bills.
Quinn’s complaints about SB 744 and SB 1849 are similar. Quinn said in today’s veto message that he would not sign off on any gaming plan without “strong ethical standards, comprehensive oversight and dedicated resources for education.” According to the message, Quinn liked SB 744 even less than the gaming plan he previously vetoed. “Senate Bill 744 is even more significantly flawed than SB 1849. Senate Bill 744’s most glaring deficiency is the total absence of comprehensive ethical standards and regulatory oversight. The bill also lacks a ban on campaign contributions by gaming licensees and casino managers, which is essential to keeping corruption out of the gaming industry.”
Link said he plans to propose new legislation that he believes will meet Quinn’s requirements. “We will be introducing a bill that we feel that answers most of the governor’s requests or desires.”
However, Link said he and other supporters have been trying all along to get a plan approved that Quinn could accept. “When the goal line keeps moving every time, it’s kind of hard to get to the goal line.”
SB 744 was kicked to Quinn when the 97th General Assembly ended in January. Because the two-year legislative session of the 97th General Assembly is over, lawmakers have no opportunity to try to override today’s veto.