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State House Roundup: Elevated Temperatures

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Expiring-clock reflections while waiting for that video of Steve Grossman shaking it at the convention to pop up on YouTube and wondering what endorsement deal Lt. Gov. Tim Murray could command with Gatorade if he keeps humping the discovery that hydration is good for you.

With three weeks to go before formal business ends in the Legislature until the 187th General Court breezes in next January, the average Massachusetts resident's life could change in the following ways: his/her health insurance costs could stop rising so quickly, criminal records could be accessible to more prospective employers but for shorter periods of time, gun purchases could be limited to one per month (but probably not), postpartum depression could receive some policy alleviation and Electoral College juice could be pledged to the next winner of the presidential popular vote. Those, along with, yes, a gambling bill, comprise the docket between now and July 31, midnight.

Or Speaker Robert DeLeo could take his ball and go home, and let none of this pass.

That could be the nihilistic end game if the Senate and governor don't budge from their opposition to the two-casino, four-racino plan the speaker favors. If there's some middle ground, it is a long way both from that bill and from the Senate's, which permits three casinos and nothing more.

"It's not even close," said one lawmaker closely observing the dance.

Roundup remorse: The Roundup incorrectly implied last week that DeLeo was thrilled with a pair of amendments in the Senate that raised the Suffolk Downs stock in the casino licensing sweepstakes significantly. While this may be true on a deep-down level, DeLeo is nine kinds of ticked off with Suffolk and Sen. Anthony Petruccelli for tucking changes into the bill that give the East Boston-Revere axis some pretty serious pole position in the licensing scramble.

When you're the guy who takes over from Salvatore DiMasi, you tend to be a little sensitive about these things.

Worse for the speaker, Suffolk splashed its casino plans Tuesday. How's this for luck? The guy who's spent his whole career pushing for, along with water and sewer rate relief around Greater Boston, slots at the tracks finally gets the House to approve them, then the very day you're trying to wire the conference committee to get where you need it to get, the guys whose water you've been carrying are leaking word that's not enough, not really what they want at all.

DeLeo's a pretty easygoing guy, most of the time, but the Suffolk leg-showing and Gov. Deval Patrick's disparagement Wednesday of racinos as "no-bid" giveaways and Senate President Therese Murray's concurrence with the governor, sent the eyes behind those low-sitting glasses rolling into the back of his head and by Thursday afternoon he came up just shy of threatening his own form of veto, calling Patrick's and Murray's priorities "intertwined" with slots. "Intertwined," in the Winthrop dialect of speakerese, translates roughly as "step the bleep off."

Which is pretty much what Independent Treasurer Timothy Cahill wants the Republican Governors Association to do. Trying to gang-tackle Cahill off the stage so Republican Charles Baker can get an untrammeled shot at the governor, the Republican Governors Association went up this week with yet another ad scourging the treasurer as an inveterate cronyist and patronage specialist.

The RGA trots out the unfortunate Cahill line where the treasurer says on the radio, "I'm not passing myself as a reformer or as a good government guy," which is precisely what most people who win elections succeed in passing themselves off as.

Cahill's struggles threaten to warp into self-perpetuating ones, as poor fundraising usually begets poor fundraising. Patrick has righted himself enough with the Legislature that there has not been an effluvium of Bakercrats and Cahillcrats, as a year ago it seemed there might well be. He's started to have to answer questions about whether his performance or prospects merit a spot in the debates, not a good sign.

Sounds like a guy who's due for a little luck. Turns out the poor guy even had his wallet stolen last week, right out of his driveway.

The Cahill fade has been happy news for Baker, the irrefutable beneficiary of the RGA's hit pieces. And it looks like they'll keep coming. RGA chair Haley Barbour would dearly love Patrick to fall in November, and clearly believes the best way to do that is to start by minimizing Cahill. "Either Charlie Baker or Deval Patrick's going to be the next governor of Massachusetts," the Mississippi governor drawled Friday, in town for the National Governors Association meeting. "Everybody knows that."

Barbour, a former lobbyist and political director for Ronald Reagan, might have a little extra riding on this one. If the election turns into a proxy for 2012 - given the tight alliance between Patrick and President Obama - and Baker wins, Barbour could make the argument that he has the playbook to beat Obama, a handy possession for a self-described "fat redneck" - though he looked like he'd taken a few off on Friday at the Sheraton - shrewdly positioning himself for a presidential bid.

The confab of governors was set to draw some angry, badge-wielding protesters to Fenway Park on Friday and South Boston's Castle Island on Saturday, municipal cop unions irked by reduced benefits and a feeling they've been getting picked on by the governor since the jump.

Bringing us back to policy. Four conference committees are keyed on gambling, disaster preparedness, criminal offense records and eased sentencing rules, and municipal financial management tools. A fifth is expected on economic development. If the House okays a slimmed-down version of the Senate's health care cost control bill, that'll make six, not to mention the veto overrides to which the House and Senate will agree down the home stretch.

Perhaps realizing that DeLeo didn't so much like being hemmed in, Patrick on Friday looked to sop up some of the tension predictably starting to slop around the third floor.

"We aren't going to get a bill if everybody doesn't dial down the rhetoric and start talking to each other instead of about each other," Patrick said.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Cornered, DeLeo comes out swinging.

SECRETARY IAN: Speaking of gambling, the stakes in those squash games between the governor and his energy and environment chief must be something fierce. Like: "OK, if you beat me in this game I will give you carte blanche to pile up political victories wildly divergent from the typical rules for Cabinet secretaries?" How else to explain the high profile the governor has allowed Secretary Ian Bowles to construct? Bowles - who waterskis in Boston Harbor, adores the media in an intense, Baddourian fashion, and looks like he'll get another policy notch next week with a wind facility siting bill passing the House - appeared to singlehandedly thwart a ballot question targeting subsidies for biomass energy plants, when the sponsors said he assured them his agency "will change our state laws to bring them in line with current science and public policy requiring biomass incinerators to meet strict standards for forest protection, greenhouse gas emissions, and efficiency." Pretty heady stuff, that, the whole bit about changing state law. That would make him just about the most powerful Cabinet secretary in history, anywhere. Three other ballot initiative backers pressed ahead with their signature filings, including those behind efforts to cut the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 3 percent, abolish the new sales tax on alcohol, and repeal Chapter 40B, the housing permit statute.

This program aired on July 9, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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