Massachusetts Speaker Reluctant to Reprise Gambling Debate

Democratic unity in Massachusetts was strained over the last four years because of disagreement over a gambling expansion. House Speaker Robert DeLeo doesn't sound especially eager for a reprise. DeLeo told the Boston Globe that he'll prioritize health care costs ahead of gambling legislation, though he also indicated that the issue could still come up. Governor Deval Patrick , who just won a second four-year term, faced significant rifts during his first term with his fellow Democrats in the legislature. Difference of opinion on gambling was one of the big reasons why. DeLeo wants slot machines at racetracks, while Patrick favors full-blown casinos. If Massachusetts doesn't pursue a gambling expansion, the decision could have a ripple effect throughout New England. Rhode Island lawmakers, for example, have contemplated allowing their slots parlors to expand into table games, in the hopes of preempting Massachusetts' move.

Republican governors-elect Scott Walker in Wisconsin and John Kasich in Ohio already have said they'll reject federal money to boost passenger rail. Now the focus is on Rick Scott in Florida , the Florida Times-Union reports . Other than California, Florida was the big winner in the quest for high-speed rail money in the stimulus. The state already has secured commitments of more than $2 billion from the feds. Florida's project is much more ambitious than the ones in Ohio and Wisconsin, where the rail lines only could be described as "high-speed" under a very generous definition of the term. The Tampa to Orlando line, by contrast, is expected to have top speeds of 168 miles per hour. Scott said on the campaign trail that he wanted the federal government to pay the full cost of the rail line if it's going to go forward, but he hasn't commented since the election. U.S. Sen. George LeMieux , a fellow Republican and a member of Scott's transition team, says he'll ask the incoming governor to support the project.

To date, Texas Republicans haven't targeted illegal immigrants in the same way their counterparts in Arizona have, but the race for Texas House Speaker could change that. The Dallas Morning News reports that State Rep. Ken Paxton is running for the job from a position to the right of current Speaker Joe Straus , in part by advocating "true immigration reform." Besides Straus and Paxton, State Rep. Warren Chisum also is in the race. Republicans went from having a narrow majority in the Texas House to having a nearly two-to-one edge over Democrats, so it's no surprise there's talk of taking the caucus in a more conservative direction. But Texas conservatism hasn't typically included a hard line on immigration. Despite his conservative views on most issues, Governor Rick Perry reiterated after the election that he doesn't think Arizona's approach is right for Texas, at least not without modifications. Republicans in Texas have had more success winning Hispanic votes than the party has had elsewhere, meaning any hard-line move on immigration is likely to come with a measure of political peril.

It's been 28 years since he served as governor, but Jerry Brown is as cheap as ever. California 's governor-elect, who famously drove to work in a Plymouth Satellite during his last stint in the office, now is conducting a frugal transition back to power. He's declined state-funded transition offices, instead preferring to work out of his campaign headquarters, the Sacramento Bee reports . Unpaid advisors make up his transition team. Besides reflecting Brown's personality, that sort of penny-pinching seems designed to send a symbolic message that the new governor is doing his part to balance the state's books-though, with the state facing a $25.4 billion shortfall, it won't make much of a dent. Nor are the connections to Brown's first tenure solely symbolic. The Bee notes that Brown is taking advice from Marty Morgenstern , who served as his lead negotiator with public employee unions during his first tenure. As he tries to balance the budget, Brown is likely to face hard choices on labor contracts.

One of  Andrew Cuomo's  appointments reinforces what close watchers of New York politics already knew: That he and former governor and fellow Democrat Eliot Spitzer don't see eye-to-eye. New York's incoming governor has appointed Kenneth Lagone , who helped found Home Depot, to his Council of Economic and Fiscal Advisors. When he served as attorney general, Spitzer sued Lagone. As Bloomberg notes , Lagone won the case and later remarked of Spitzer, "I hope his private hell is hotter than anybody else's." 


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