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    State of Play
    Colorado: The Super Bowl Tax?

    State Capital Strategies
    Friday, Jan. 23, 1998

    As the Denver Broncos prepare for Sunday's Super Bowl, hype surrounding the team has fueled legislative debate on financing a new football stadium. The public will be asked to fund more than $180 million. Voters likely will be asked in November to extend a one-cent-per-$10 sales tax in the Denver metro area to pay for the stadium. The tax was used to build Coors Field in Denver for Major League Baseball's Colorado Rockies.

    More State Political News From:
    California | Illinois | Louisiana | Maine
    Michigan | Nevada | Oregon | Virginia | Wyoming

    California: Feinstein Drops Out of Governor's Race

    CAU.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, long considered a Democratic front runner in the governor's race, will not seek the seat after all. She cited a "very debilitating campaign environment" in her Jan. 20 announcement. Lt. Gov. Gray Davis (D) and millionaire businessman Alfred Checchi will campaign in the Democratic primary. Speculation continues that former Clinton Chief of Staff Leon Panetta wants to run. The leading Republican is Atty. Gen. Dan Lundgren.

    Illinois: Poshard Pulling Ahead

    ILDemocratic gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Glenn Poshard (D) appears to be pulling ahead in the crowded Democratic primary race. Recent endorsements from the AFL-CIO and a Chicago police organization have strengthened Poshard's chances. Poshard has grabbed most of the Chicago media attention following the endorsements. Previously, Poshard found it hard to get attention from the city's major media outlets. Three other Democrats – Chicago lawyers John Schmidt, Jim Burns and Roland Burris – are also in the race. They are all considered more moderate than Poshard but share similar philosophies. Insiders believe these similarities may split the moderate vote and give Poshard an edge.

    Louisiana: Foster Flip-Flop

    LAGov. Mike Foster ( R ) has flip-flopped on a controversial gaming issue. The Foster administration said the governor will include a crucial vote on the future of the dormant New Orleans casino during a special session in late March. Foster said earlier he would not include the casino issue in the special session to prevent deal-making and vote-swapping that could damage his proposals to revamp post-secondary education, the state highway department and the civil-service system.

    Key Foster staffers were ordered by the governor to let the issue stand on its own without political trades affecting its future. The casino tax contract with the state is apparently acceptable to Foster. It stipulates that casino operators guarantee the minimum $100 million annual tax on a year-to-year basis. The New Orleans casino opened briefly in temporary quarters in 1995 but closed and announced plans to seek protection in bankruptcy courts late that year. Casino operators have been successful in securing a state contract permitting scaled-back operations but requiring the minimum tax. Sources say it is too early to predict the outcome of the contract. However, legislators continue to watch recent polls showing low public support for the casino.

    Maine: Icing Out Politics

    MEDevastating ice storms in Maine and other northeastern states have shut down virtually all political activity while causing widespread damage. Tense legislators have followed closely state emergency responses to life-threatening power outages. The storm will probably bolster Gov. Angus King's (I) already high popularity. The governor hopped on helicopters last week to tour the state and urged citizens affected by the power outages to go to emergency shelters.

    Michigan: Taxing a Surplus

    MINew, lower budget surplus estimates are fueling debate about whether Gov. John Engler (R) will propose significant tax cuts in his Jan. 29 State of the State address. His spokesman says "everything is still on the table." Insiders expect a modest tax-cut plan from Engler. On a related note, sources indicate the governor's staff is busy compiling a list of accomplishments of the seven-year Engler administration for the speech - a common tactic during an election year.

    Nevada: 'Political Mike Tysons'

    NVA fundraising letter by the Nevada Republican Party has attracted the wrath of state union leaders – and, at the same time, earned substantial dollars for the party. The letter's anti-union rhetoric included a reference to labor bosses as "the Mike Tysons of American politics."

    Oregon: Crowded Ballot

    OROregon voters may be looking at a wordy, crowded ballot in the November general election. Of 70 initiatives filed with the state elections division, nearly a third – 22 of them – have gotten the green light to collect signatures. Traditionally, only about a fourth of the measures end up on the ballot. In the 1994 and 1996 elections, voters waded through 16 ballot measures. Possible issues for 1998 include legalizing marijuana, banning clear-cutting and a variety of tax reform measures. Supporters of the initiatives have until early July to collect signatures.

    Virginia: Historic Political Parity

    VALast Tuesday's special elections threw the Virginia House of Delegates into near political parity. Republicans captured all three seats to narrow the House voting margin with 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans and one Independent. The Independent member, Lacey Putney, agreed to caucus and vote with Republicans. But Putney has not changed parties. After several hours of negotiating, Democrats relinquished power of a chamber they had controlled for more than a century &150; thus making the Virginia General Assembly the first state with power-sharing arrangements in both chambers.

    Wyoming: A Gubernatorial Challenge

    WYState Auditor Dave Ferrari (R) says he will announce by mid-March his plans for 1998. Nearing the end of his second term, Ferrari is rumored as an opponent of Gov. Jim Geringer (R), who is expected to announce a re-election bid. Acknowledging the difficulty of knocking off an incumbent governor, Ferrari nonetheless says he has not ruled out a run. Ferrari and Geringer have clashed on several issues, mainly over state lands. Secretary of State Diana Ohman (R) is also considered a likely candidate to run against Geringer. She, too, has clashed with Geringer on a number of issues.

    Legislative leaders are expected to introduce a bill as a preemptive strike against a Ferrari-led ethics initiative that appears to be gaining momentum. Legislators have consistently defeated ethics bills, but may be forced to pass some measure to offset Ferrari's initiative. Some lawmakers do not want to file financial statements or refrain from voting on issues that may pose conflicts. Legislators may be forced to pass a slightly watered-down version and then hope the state attorney general will rule Ferrari's ethics initiative moot if passed by voters.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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