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Votes Likely There for Stalled Charitable Gaming Bill

September 22, 2014

While a bill to overturn tougher rules on charitable gaming sits in their committee, a majority of the members of House Regulatory Reform Committee told MIRS  they either aren’t satisfied with the administration’s rules or they, at least, want to see their panel vote.

The comments of nine of the 15 members of the House Regulatory Reform Committee are the strongest indication yet that it may be powers larger than the committee that’s stopping the Legislature from acting to loosen charitable gaming regulations.

If the Legislature approved a bill to overturn the rules, it would put Gov. Rick SNYDER in a tough position: Reject the bill or turn his back on his administration’s work.

Over the last two years, the Governor’s administration has pushed new rules that aim to stop fraud and abuse in charity poker events, which have ballooned in popularity and proceeds.

But charities and charitable gaming supporters argue that the administration’s actions will ultimately close the fundraising avenue — and thus, end the good works that fundraising produces.

While a court battle over the rules continues to play out, about 60 protesters took to the Capitol lawn to voice their concerns about the rules. Under a banner that read, “Snyder conspires against charities,” they carried signs, like “Legislature we need help” and “House Reps, we vote and we want charity poker.”

One of the protesters was Dick WOLFF, treasurer of the Pontiac Lions Club. Wolff said his organization gets about 70 percent of its annual financial support from charitable gaming. That money, he said, goes to provide eye glasses for seniors and children.

Like others, Wolff wants to see the House act on SB 0878, the Senate bill that could overturn the administration’s new charitable gaming rules.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rick JONES (R-Grand Ledge), passed the Senate 37-0 in April, but has languished before the House Regulatory Reform Committee. Those two facts don’t seem to go together, according to Wolff.

“We can’t figure that one out,” as he put it.

But, according to members of the committee, the committee’s inaction is not because there’s not an interest in the subject.

MIRS talked to 13 of the 15 members of the Regulatory Reform Committee.

A majority of the 15 members said they either weren’t satisfied with the administration’s rule set or they called for a vote on the bill.

“Put it up for a vote,” Minority Vice Chair Harold HAUGH (D-Roseville) said this afternoon.

Likewise, Rep. David NATHAN (D-Detroit) said there should be a vote.

Rep. Ken YONKER (R-Caledonia) said the regulations are so tough that they’ve made it difficult for the charities to operate.

“I think the Governor’s stand is a little bit hard on it,” Yonker said this afternoon.

Likewise, Rep. Klint KESTO (R-Commerce Twp.) focused on the charities.

“We can’t just change something across the board when there’s a limited number of bad actors,” said Kesto, who likes the Jones bill.

Rep. Bruce RENDON (R-Lake City) said he supports the charities and any industry has its bad apples. Along those same lines, Rep. Tim KELLY (R-Saginaw) said he doesn’t like the Michigan Gaming Control Board’s rules.

Rep. Andy SCHOR (D-Lansing), who sponsored his own alternative to the administration’s rules, said the committee should take up the Jones bills. And Rep. Theresa ABED (D-Grand Ledge) said she supports the Jones bill, as well.

Rep. Cindy DENBY (R-Fowlerville) said she’s heard from several charities about the subject. Denby, who didn’t commit to supporting the Jones bill, said she would like to find a compromise on the rules.

Two other lawmakers, Reps. Scott DIANDA (D-Calumet) and Woodrow STANLEY (D-Flint), said they didn’t have definite positions on the Jones bill or the administration rules .

On the other side of the subject, Rep. Ed McBROOM (R-Vulcan) said he mostly supports the administration’s rule changes. The Gaming Control Board, McBroom said, had brought forward compelling problems to show the need for the changes.

“It really needs to be better overseen and controlled to make sure the criminal elements aren’t involved,” McBroom said.

As for the other members of the committee, MIRS couldn’t reach Rep. Andrea LAFONTAINE (R-Columbus Twp.) . But she was a co-sponsor of Schor’s alternative bill and she posted on Facebook last year that she wanted to work with lawmakers who wanted to roll back state rules.

Rep. Tom MCMILLIN (R-Rochester Hills) was a member of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, which allowed the administration’s rules go into place.

And the 15th member of the committee is Chair Hugh CRAWFORD (R-Novi).

Crawford said  that the committee’s time is limited and the Governor would likely veto the bill even if it passed committee.

Plus, he said the subject is still under review by the courts.

Crawford said he hasn’t taken an official tally on the bill’s support in committee. But it’s possible the votes are there.

Still, he said, “The Governor’s not going to sign it.”

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