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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Odds and Ends - April 13

- Despite questions about its constitutionality as well as his own concerns, Bloodhorse reports that NY Governor Pataki will allow new VLT provisions more favorable to racetracks to be included in the state’s new budget. The language is intended to address issues raised by a state court last year when it declared the existing VLT bill unconstitutional. The bill provides for a higher percentage cut for the tracks, as well as an additional marketing allowance.

- With the state legislature adjourned, Governor Robert Ehrlich of Maryland will try to pin blame on the Democrats for the failure to pass legislation for slots and other favored initiatives. Ehrlich apparently does a great job portraying himself as a regular guy, which helped him become the state’s first Republican governor in 36 years.

Even as Democratic lawmakers grumble that Ehrlich is disengaged from policy and shows little appetite for the work of governing, he and his aides seem to have honed a strategy of marketing him as a likable figure with the best interests of Marylanders at heart.

A year ago, the governor starred in commercials that showed him cleaning gutters and mowing lawns so families could spend time vacationing in Maryland - drawing the ire of lawmakers who said state money was misspent on the ads.
"He is going to be using all the powers of incumbency," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. "Dollars that are supposed to be promoting tourism, they are going to be promoting Gov. Robert Ehrlich.

"Here is an administration opposed to every single environmental law there is encouraging people to turn off their light switches, [in ads] featuring the governor.” [Baltimore Sun]
Ehrlich did get some of his favored proposals passed, including a bill to increase penalties for witness intimidation, and allow prosecutors more leeway to use statements made under oath by witnesses who are killed or disappear, which I’m sure will be quite comforting for the dead or missing witnesses.

But he promised to veto a law that the GOP fought bitterly that would force Wal-Mart to provide a certain level of health benefits for all its employees; the veto is expected to be overridden. The giant retailer has been criticized often for its lack of adequate coverage for many of its employees; even many of those who are covered have to wait six months. Though the bill doesn’t specifically name Wal-Mart, with 15,000 employees, it would be the only company affected, since they’re the only company in the state with more than the 10,000 employees specified in the bill. Ehrlich, in a typically Republican view of the world, said that it sends a bad message to the business community. [Washington Post]

He also decried the fact that the subject came up on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, causing embarrassment to the state. Limbaugh called the legislators favoring the bill “extortionists,” and accused the Democrats of supporting a bill that would cause job losses. His suggested response to this?
I think what Wal-Mart ought to do is just close a few stores in the state, and move them, right over the border, neighborhoods states. Just close enough stores to where they could take five thousand and one jobs, make the number of employees in the state of Maryland under [10,000] and not be subject to the provisions of the legislation
So, Rush accuses the Democrats of supporting job losses and his solution is to fire 5001 people in the state. And he’s supposedly off drugs now?

As far as slots go, Ehrlich and Senate president are hoping for a special session, but House Speaker Busch says there is no emergency to justify such a move. [, via Albany Law School] Perhaps he should ask Maryland breeders about that.

- Bobby Frankel says of Bellamy Road’s Wood: 'The only negative is that he may have run too fast and sometimes, horses bounce in their next start from that.' That may be wishful thinking, considering the easy manner in which he came down the stretch and needed outrider assistance to be pulled up. However, who is to say that High Limit will not turn in a similar performance in the Blue Grass? He may be untested, but he’s won all his races easily, and without exerting undue effort either, so who really knows?

As for his jockey Ramon Dominguez, Frankel says:
'I've been watching him ride for a few years. He's a sit-still rider, which I like….He's a talented rider and his agent called and asked if he could stay on this horse. He's an up-and-coming star.' [Saratogian]

- Check out Bill Christine’s column today on the Sweet Catomine affair; he has some interesting points, including this:
Suppose Wygod had told us everything he knew, and Sweet Catomine, running against a less-than-stellar field, had still won, at 2-1 instead of even money. Wygod would have been accused of setting up a score, and the grandstand might have been reduced to ashes. [LA Times]