A lull in the battle over ultimate fighting bill
Assemblyman Bob Reilly doesn't trust the quiet, below-the-radar status of mixed-martial arts Legislation he's spent the past two years fighting to defeat.
A bill that would legalize the combat known as ultimate fighting, banned in New York since 1997, passed last June in the Assembly's Committee on Tourism, Arts, Parks and Sports Development on which Reilly sits. But it stalled in the Ways and Means Committee and was not reported to the floor for a vote at the end of the session, a process controlled by Speaker Sheldon Silver.
"Things have been strangely silent on the part of the lobbyists and that worries me," Reilly said.
The Colonie Democrat has become a leading opponent of the $1 billion sport, broadcast frequently on cable TV and legal in 42 states, including Massachusetts, which passed a law legalizing it two months ago.
Reilly is considering introducing a compromise bill that would legalize the sport while requiring it to be less violent, perhaps by making it illegal for a fighter to hit an opponent when he's down and limiting the use of elbows.
"That's just one of my strategies," said Reilly, who has received calls from mixed-martial arts opponents in several states as well as Canada and England seeking his advice on scuttling the legislation.
Although the bill has not been taken up in the state Senate, Reilly said he plans to contact Gov. David Paterson and argue that it's a bad idea despite the state's economic woes. "This sport is so violent it's no way to raise revenues," Reilly said.
Bob Belber, general manager of Times Union Center, has said he'd like to bring Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts to Albany, where a sellout would generate about $100,000 in county tax revenues.
Reilly vowed to go to the mat if need be on the Assembly floor. "If it doesn't get taken up at conference, I'm going to lay it aside on the floor," he said.
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