Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Senate Adopts Spilka's Amendments to Protect Local Communities


(BOSTON) – The Senate began debating the bill to expand gaming in the Commonwealth and during today's session, two of Senator Karen Spilka's (D-Ashland) amendments aimed at strengthening safeguards and providing additional protections for surrounding communities were adopted.

"I have filed these amendments to make sure the needs of surrounding communities are better addressed and understood so we can have the best possible outcome for our towns, our residents, and the Commonwealth as a whole," said Spilka. "And as the debate continues, I will continue to fight to protect and support my district's residents, communities, neighborhoods, and local businesses."

The first amendment adopted makes clear that the initial studies an applicant is required to provide to the Gaming Commission would not be deemed to prevent the need for corresponding studies and reports prepared for host or surrounding communities. Host and surrounding communities will be significantly impacted and this amendment ensures that a municipality has the ability to receive additional studies on these impacts from the Commission or gaming applicant that they need to fairly negotiate agreements.

The second amendment adopted authorizes the Commission to provide for reasonable costs of negotiating agreements between municipalities and applicants – the Commission may require applicants to pay these costs. Since the negotiation process can be burdensome, complex, and expensive for host and surrounding communities, this will give them the tools they need to ensure effective and fair representation.

Spilka has already fought hard to include protections for communities that find themselves impacted by another community's choice to host a gambling facility in the current version of the bill. After hearing from and discussing this issue with many of her constituents and local officials, Spilka submitted amendments to strengthen these community safeguards and ensure that surrounding communities and the public are involved in the entire process.
Highlights of Additional Amendments filed by Senator Spilka:

·         Changing the definition of "surrounding communities" to ensure fairness to all impacted communities and to give them a seat at the table during the process;
·         Giving surrounding communities and substantially impacted communities the ability to vote – not just host communities;
·         Ensuring public sentiment is taken into consideration by requiring the Gaming Commission to consider the public support or opposition in the host and surrounding communities;
·         Increasing surrounding community involvement in the long term mitigation process by allowing each Local Community Mitigation Advisory Committee to appoint one member to the Subcommittee on Community Mitigation – which currently only has representatives from the host communities;

"Working on my constituents' behalf to further strengthen our communities is the reason I get up in the morning and their priorities come first," said Spilka. "These amendments were submitted with the needs and concerns of my constituents foremost in my mind."

The Senate will resume debate Tuesday, September 27th in the afternoon.

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