SACRAMENTO -- Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) employed a little legislative arm-twisting to persuade lawmakers to pass a measure that would allow a Central California Indian tribe to open a casino just off a major state highway.
The Assembly ratified the new compact between the state and the North Fork Band of Mono Indians with the bare minimum 41 votes needed for passage. After an initial vote, the measure had just 34 members in support -- before Perez publicly warned members that the Assembly has been known to keep members in chambers for up to nine hours until the necessary votes to pass a bill were offered.
Eventually, seven more Democrats relented. Twelve members voted against the bill, and 23 others abstained.
The measure must now be approved by the state Senate before taking effect.
The controversial measure -- giving the North Fork Band permission to open a casino just off Highway 99 in Madera -- pitted tribes against each other and raised concerns that it could lead to an expansion of casinos across the state.
The U.S. Department of the Interior gave its OK to the casino in 2011, approving an exception to the federal rule prohibiting tribal casinos that are not on tribal reservations. Gov. Jerry Brown reached a deal with the tribe last year.
Opponents of the deal, including some of the largest gaming tribes in the state, such as the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians from Riverside County, raised concerns that the pact would set a precedent for tribes opening casinos near urban areas, far from their reservations.
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