5th Time a Charm?
It’s become like a right of passage each year at the State Capitol: Promoters of Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA, trek up to Albany and urge the legislature to make New York the last state in the union to legalize and regulate the sport. Then Pat Bailey from Channel 6 asks the Governor about it a bunch.
So far, the Senate has passed the MMA bill four times, but the Assembly has yet to bring it up for a vote.
Perhaps in an attempt to put it on the radar of New York City media, on Thursday the same cast of characters held a press conference at Madison Square Garden to plead their case. What was notable however was that the supporters were joined by Democratic Assemblymembers Andrew Hevesi ( D- Queens ) and Aravella Simotas ( D-Queens ). Senator Jose Peralta ( D- Queens ) also spoke from the podium. I know what you are thinking, this must be some kind of Queens thing, right? Could be, but I don’t think so.
The fact that Simotas and Hevesi are advocating for MMA so publicly could maybe be interpreted as opposition to this bill is waning. Speaker Sheldon Silver has been personally opposed, but his statements have certainly evolved on the subject from what they were even in 2012. I thought it was only conspiracy theorists who floated the idea that the culinary union was pressuring Democratic lawmakers ( including perhaps Silver ) to prevent the bill from coming up for a vote, but then UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta surprised me this afternoon when he confirmed that hypothesis,
“Me and my brother own a large casino company in Las Vegas, the only non-union casino company in Las Vegas, not by our choice but by the choice of our team member.”
A spokesman for Speaker Silver says the fate of the bill has not yet been determined. But when peppered with questions about whether the Speaker is opposed either because of the level of violence associated with MMA or because of union pressure, Hevesi offered up a spirited defense of the Speaker,
“It’s not that one man is stopping it, it’s that we haven’t reached the requisite number that he needs to get it out on the floor. And I guarantee you that once he gets those votes, 76 are needed that’s the magic number he will put it up for a vote.”
There are some who say the votes are already there, and have been since last year, But Speaker Silver couldn’t afford to further alienate members who remain steadfastly opposed. Clearly the momentum is building in favor of passage, and a strong supporter is Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle ( D- Rochester ). So what can one read into two city Democrats attending a press conference supporting a bill their Speaker opposes? A cynic might say it shows Silver’s grip on the conference is not what it once was, others may see it as a sign of changing times as it gets harder to say no to any sort of economic activity that might help.
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