California | Compacts | Opinion
Editorial: Bungling of California gaming compacts

"Here's what happened. After the Legislature approved the compacts last summer, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent them to the California secretary of state's office. Even though the compacts were not set to become law until Jan. 1 and opponents were collecting signatures to place initiatives on the ballot to repeal them, Secretary of State Debra Bowen forwarded the agreements on to the U.S. Department of Interior in September.

Under federal law, the interior secretary has 45 days to review tribal state gambling compacts and accept or reject them. Given the fact that the compacts were being challenged, it's unclear how the secretary would have acted. But he never had a chance to review them.

When the California compacts arrived at Interior, they were misplaced for 80 days. They then appeared one day in the in-box of a key Bureau of Indian Affairs official. (We're not making this up.) Because they had been lost for a period well beyond the 45-day deadline for review, they gained automatic approval when they resurfaced.

This peculiar saga does not end there.

To officially become law, the compacts had to be published in the Federal Register. Given the pending referenda and the mysterious disappearance of the compacts, Interior officials initially said they would not publish them right away, which was sensible because there was no deadline for publication. Then on Dec. 19 Interior officials reversed course and published them anyway.

The sequence of events merits a thorough investigation, beginning in California. Why did Secretary of State Debra Bowen send the compacts to Washington before they became law? Where did they disappear for 80 critical days before they showed up in a federal bureaucrat's in-box?"

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Editorial: Bungling? Or ... (The Sacramento Bee 1/6)