Commentary #3 from No Dice, December 17, 2004 - For use as desired by Bruce Barron
The new Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board held its first meetings this week, and at least one historic event took place: the word "emergency" was redefined.(No Dice is a Pittsburgh-area advocacy organization opposing the proliferation of legalized gambling in Pennsylvania. To be added to or removed from this distribution list, or to receive copies of previous commentaries, contact Bruce Barron at nodicepa - at - aol - dot - com or 412-835-0614.)
The board invoked emergency procurement procedures in order to take four actions without going through the standard bidding process prescribed by state law. One of those "emergency" actions was to rent office space.
State law says that emergency procurements can be made without going through standard bidding procedures only when there is a threat to public health, welfare or safety, or when circumstances outside the agency's control create an urgency that does not permit the use of competitive methods.
Nevertheless, the Harrisburg Patriot-News quoted a state Department of Revenue spokesman as defending the use of emergency procurement to rent office space, stating, "They have no place to sit."
That certainly sounds like a dire emergency to us.
We're sure that the honorable members of the Gaming Control Board investigated all other possible options before taking this emergency action, so we assume the following must be true:
* Governor Rendell used up all his chits fighting for the slots bill, so he can't persuade a single one of his own agencies to lend the Gaming Control Board a conference room and an office for three months.
* The Gaming Control Board members, hampered by salaries of only $140,000 a year, have no spare change available to buy folding chairs or a table, or to rent a meeting room a few times while conducting a proper bidding process.
Judging from their "emergency" need for a place to sit, none of the Gaming Control Board members could make it as a stand-up comedian, even though many of their actions may be downright hilarious.
Representatives of the gambling industry, predictably, expressed pleasure with the Gaming Control Board's willingness to bypass state law in order to accelerate the arrival of slots.
At least the Gaming Control Board, by demonstrating its ability to declare a state of emergency at the drop of a rental agreement, is getting Pennsylvanians accustomed to what Nevadans have known for years: once you let gambling into your state, the gambling lobby trumps good public policy every time.