Think lawmakers are feeling a wee bit sensitive about their reputations these days?
Sen. James Eldridge (D-Acton) touched a nerve — big time — when he argued this week that lawmakers should be banned from going to work for casino interests for five years after leaving the Legislature, if the gambling bill now being debated in the Senate becomes law.
Sen. Gale Candaras (D-Wilbraham) characterized the proposed amendment as an “attack” by Eldridge on his colleagues. “We’re creating a presumption here that the people in this body cannot operate with integrity,” she said.
Not to put too fine a point on it, Senator, but can we really blame an amendment for creating that presumption?
Sen. Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst), who has led the casino effort in the Senate, noted that his colleagues “all are hardworking effective people with integrity.”
But the roll call of lawmakers who have left the State House in disgrace casts a shadow over those statements. And let’s face it, the revolving door at the State House is certainly well-oiled.
Now, we really don’t see the same need as Eldridge — a casino opponent — to single out casino jobs for a cooling-off period of extraordinary length. Why not adopt the same rule for the biotech field, say, or health care?
Lawmakers who become registered lobbyists for any interest are now prevented from lobbying their former colleagues for one year after leaving the Legislature. And since lobbying is the likeliest avenue if they take a job at a casino (let’s just say we don’t see many lawmakers being tapped as croupiers) it seems reasonable to apply the same type of standard, which the Senate did in adopting a compromise amendment.
And those senators who were so deeply offended by the suggestion that any of their colleagues might race for the revolving door — or that any lawmaker’s services can be bought for the right price — really ought to drop the theatrics.