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Senate declines to vote on Station Casinos resolution

September 14, 2000
By: Lauren Shepherd
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Senate debated but declined to vote Thursday on a proposal urging the state Gaming Commission to force Station Casinos executives to testify about bonuses the former chairman paid the company's lawyer.

After more than an hour of debate, Sen. Steve Ehlmann, Senate Republican leader from St. Charles, withdrew the resolution he first proposed Wednesday, effectively killing the proposal. The resolution would not have been enforceable by law, but would have only expressed the Senate's opinion that the executives should testify.

Before withdrawing the resolution, Ehlmann secured a committment from Sen. President Pro Tem Edward Quick, D-Liberty, to pass the resolution on to the Senate's Joint Interim Gaming Committee to investigate the activities of the casino.

"In the Senate, you never get everything you want, but you get everything you need," Ehlmann said.

He said he finally withdrew the resolution for fear Quick would rule the proposal out of order on a technicality. Some legislators argued that the veto session could only consider vetoed bills and, thus, the resolution was out of order.

But Ehlmann said, in the past, the session has also been used to introduce mundane bills such as postage and parking proposals that can't be enforced by law. He said he believed his resolution fit into this category since it did not have the full force of the law behind it.

"I was afraid if I kept it out there, [Quick] would rule it out of order and I would get nothing," Ehlmann said.

Last month, the Gaming Commission issued subpoenas for seven Station Casinos executives to testify about the bonuses paid to the company's private lawyer. All but one of the executives refused to testify. The Commission is investigating whether the company should lose their gaming license.

Ehlmann and Quick reached the agreement after several other senators debated whether the resolution should be introduced in the veto session at all.

"I think the resolution is out of order," said Sen. Ken Jacob, D--Columbia. "I don't think we should stick our nose into the litigation process."

Jacob is the chairman of the Joint Interim Committee on Gaming. He has accepted $5,000 in campaign contributions from the gambling industry since 1997 -- $3500 from Station Casinos Inc.

Ehlmann, who is leaving the Senate to pursue a judgeship, acknowledged that the Committee could just ignore the resolution, but he said he plans to write a letter to the committee personally asking them to consider investigating the casino.

He also said the Senate's final decision to not vote on the proposal had political undertones.

"I don't take gaming money and the governor from my party didn't appoint the members of the Gaming Commission, so it would have been easy for me to vote on it," he said.