Gov. Deval Patrick has two weeks to secure some major legislative victories he can use in his re-election campaign.
A proposal to expand gambling in the state, which Patrick has long supported, is the most prominent piece of legislation awaiting action before the session ends July 31.
Measures to restrict yearly gun purchases and improve the criminal records system, both pushed by the governor, have yet to reach his desk.
The Democratic governor faces challenges from Republican Charles Baker, Independent Tim Cahill, the state treasurer, and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein.
Expanded gambling has been on Patrick’s to-do list since the last legislative session, when his proposal featuring three resort-style casinos failed. This time around, Patrick has renewed his support for expanded gambling but refused to endorse proposals that include slot machines at the state’s four race tracks.
The House passed a bill in April that would license two resort-style casinos and up to 750 slots at the four tracks. The Senate earlier this month passed a measure that would license three resort-style casinos, but did not include slots at the tracks. A six-member committee made up of representatives from both chambers is trying to forge a compromise bill.
Patrick expressed concern this week that time may run out before he gets a casino bill he can sign.
Meanwhile, the governor said, the focus on casinos has held up other items. The Senate spent eight days debating casinos.
“I am concerned that so much important work has been left to the end of the session,” Patrick told reporters. “We’ve got a lot of stuff backed up.”
Patrick’s gun bill is in the bottleneck. The legislation would allow licensed gun owners to purchase only one gun a month. Currently, they can purchase as many guns as they want. The bill squeaked out of the Judiciary Committee but has yet to be taken up for a vote by either chamber.
Patrick has also been a staunch supporter of overhauling the Criminal Offender Record Information system, known as CORI. Advocates of an overhaul say the system makes it difficult for former prisoners to secure jobs and housing because prior offenses stay on their records for too long. A conference committee is trying to bridge the differences between two bills.
A Patrick aide said the governor also wants to see action this session on bills related to wind energy, economic development, and small businesses.
Baker’s campaign says Patrick has spent too much time focusing on the wrong type of legislative proposals.
“The real failure is that Governor Patrick continues to ignore the real reforms necessary to improve the business climate and get Massachusetts residents back to work,” said campaign spokesman Rick Gorka. “Instead, over the last four years, Patrick has raised taxes eight times by over $1 billion, the unemployment rate has doubled and Massachusetts ranks as one of the most expensive states in the country to do business.”
Cahill said the governor has not shown the type of leadership necessary to shepherd his proposals through the legislature.
“The lack of progress made on the governor’s initiatives point to a total lack of leadership,” Cahill said in a statement. “His inability to work with the Legislature has been proven time and time again. And until we stop electing inexperienced CEOs to the corner office, the Commonwealth will continue to fall behind.”
Aside from pending bills, Patrick’s campaign said, the governor has achieved plenty during this session, including new laws to overhaul the state’s pension, ethics and transportation systems.
“This legislative session has been one of the most productive sessions in decades,” said Alex Goldstein, a spokesman for Patrick’s campaign.