House gives green light to Petersburg casino referendum, but not by a clear majority
RICHMOND — Even though it got through on plurality instead of a clear majority, the sponsor of the House of Delegates bill creating a casino referendum for Petersburg still celebrated it as a "huge win" for Petersburg.
"This legislation takes control away from Richmond and allows the residents of Petersburg to influence their economic future," Del. Kim Taylor, R-Dinwiddie County, said minutes after the full House voted 49-44 to send the bill to the state Senate where its companion legislation died in committee. There was one abstention on the bill that kept it from reaching its majority mark of 50.
Six delegates, four Republicans and two Democrats, did not vote. One of them was Democrat Dawn Adams of Richmond, the city battling Petersburg for the right to host central Virginia's casino. Under Taylor's bill, Richmond — which defeated its own casino referendum 15 months ago — wants a do-over on the vote, but Taylor and many within the GOP have said one vote was enough and it was time for Petersburg to have a shot.
Del, Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax County, who had hinted that his support for the bill was tepid at best, said he would not vote for it again should it come back after its trip through the Senate, where Sickles said "passage is highly questionable." Five days ago, the Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee killed Sen. Joe Morrissey's companion legislation by one vote.
More:Senate Finance kills Petersburg casino referendum, but sponsor says issue is not dead yet
Sickles noted a Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee report issued late last year that said Petersburg certainly was viable as a possible casino host, but so was Richmond. Casinos in both cities would be even more of an economic benefit than one flying solo.
"We need to find a way to serve both cities, as JLARC says it should be done," Sickles said.
Petersburg is opposed to sharing a casino. Its chosen casino developer, Maryland-based The Cordish Companies, has said it would not build its planned $1.4 billion multi-use development that would be centerpieced by the casino.
The failed Senate bill had an amendment requiring Petersburg's casino vendor to pay the average prevailing wage for its workers.
Taylor said the bill was not about unions, wages or partisanship. "It's about raising the per-capita income in my city," she said.
The final vote fell mostly along party lines with a few breaking ranks. For example, Sickles, a Democrat, voted for it. Del. Bobby Orrock, R-Spotsylvania County, voted against it.
Watch the final vote on House Bill 1373 here.
See how members of the House of Delegates voted on House Bill 1373 by clicking here.
Tuesday was the last day for the House and Senate to act on its own legislation. The expected route of Taylor's bill will likely be the same as the Morrissey legislation — first in Senate General Laws & Technology Committee, and if successful there, on to Senate Finance.
More:See and raise: Day after Senate panel rejects Petersburg casino, House counterpart approves it
Bill Atkinson (he/him/his) is an award-winning journalist who covers breaking news, government and politics. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @BAtkinson_PI.
This article originally appeared on The Progress-Index: Virginia House passes Petersburg casino referendum bill