Christine Stuart photo
UAW Table Dealers at the Capitol (Christine Stuart photo)

Earlier this afternoon the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives privately talked about a bill that would create a committee to work with the state’s two tribal casinos on a smoking ban. The Democratic caucus decided not to bring the bill up for a vote Tuesday, which disappointed the union representing 2,600 table dealers at Foxwoods casino.

Julie Kushner, assistant regional director of the United Auto Workers Region 9A, said she’s disappointed in Speaker James Amann for not letting lawmakers debate the bill in the waning hours of the legislative session. “I’m disappointed the Speaker didn’t come through on his word,” she said Tuesday afternoon.

Amann said the UAW asked him to support the bill weeks ago when the state still had a surplus. He said Tuesday that the Democratic members in the House overwhelmingly opposed it.

In addition, Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she would veto it, Amann said.

“If they want to blame someone they should blame the people upstairs,” he said referring to the Senate, who didn’t pass the bill until late last week. As a result, the bill has to sit on the House calendar for up to three days before it can be called for a vote.

“More lives will be lost,” as a result of this decision, Kushner said. She said lawmakers have an “opportunity, obligation, and responsibility to these workers.” She said no one would allow a miner to go into a mine filled with dangerous fumes, why allow table dealers to do the same.

Jack Edwards, a table dealer at Foxwoods Casino, said he has mixed emotions about what happened to the bill this year. “I’m pleased at how much progress it made and how fast it made it in this building,” he said.

Edwards said he was “thankful for the 24 senators who stood up to protect our health.”

Meanwhile, tribal leaders are afraid if the state tries to ban smoking in their casinos slot revenue will decrease at the least by 13 percent. The state shares some of those slot revenues.

Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, wrote a letter to legislators last week asking it to stop attacking the tribe’s sovereignty by legislating a smoking ban.

“The Mohegan Tribe is ready and eager to participate in respectful government to government discussions, but we can not and will not participate in any discussions if the Legislature attempts to circumvent our Tribal Compact and threatens the essence of our Tribal sovereignty.  We ask legislators, again, to set this bill aside and allow discussions to move forward,” Bozsum wrote in this letter.

Rell and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal have said they would continue to negotiate the smoking issue with the tribes.