There are now only 3 days left, as the 2011 Maryland General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on Monday, April 11.
In March, we reported on the progress of a bill of tremendous interest to anyone associated in any way with racing in Maryland, be they horsemen, track owners, vets, farriers, breeders or fans: theRace Track Renewal Fund. The general media has referred to this bill as “another race subsidy,” which is rather unfair, as all this bill does is to allow certain slot funds (which are currently, by law, allocated to race track capital improvements) to be used (under limited and certain circumstances) for track operating costs.
HB 1036 and SB 848 are considered “Governor’s bills,” as they were submitted, respectively, by the Speaker of the House and the Speaker of the Senate at the request of the administration – and it is important for Equiery readers to understand that this legislation has the full support of the Governor, as well as a wide variety of racing interests.
On March 26, the House passed a heavily amended version of the bill. The amendments include creating an oversight commission on racing (yes, dear readers, there already is an oversight commission on racing, created by law, and called “The Maryland Racing Commission;” this amendment would provide another layer of oversight, with this commission made up of elected officials who would review business plans…hmmm) and prohibiting the tracks from using any of the funds to pay for lobbying or litigation (that sounds reasonable, under the circumstances), and insures that the Maryland State Fair (a.k.a. Timonium) would also get a few bucks (when submitting legislations, everyone always seems to forget that Timonium is a race track too!). The amendments also require that the tracks submit five year business plans for profitability, and that certainly – on the surface – sounds reasonable.
HB 1036 passed 94-39 and crossed over to the Senate in the nick of time; it was heard in Senate Budget & Taxation on March 30, and there has been no action since then…but the race isn’t over yet! They’ve turned for home, and the wire is in sight…
Meanwhile, the other racing bill that still seems to have legs is SB 491, which would authorize the owner of the Bowie Race Course Training Center (that would be the Maryland Jockey Club, which is still owned by MI Development and Penn National) to convey the property associated with the training center to the State, Prince George’s County, or the City of Bowie. Originally, this bill would have mandated that the Training Center could only go to the State as preserved land under Program Open Space, but a whole-lotta people had a whole-lotta problems with that, and so the bill was amended to eliminate that provision and to allow the opportunity for the land to go to PG County or Bowie. The amendments also clarify that, upon transfer of ownership to one of the above said public entities, said public entity has no legal obligation to continue to run the facility as a Thoroughbred training facility.
The Senate unanimously passed the bill on March 25, and the House Ways & Means gave it a favorable report on Wed. April 6, so the bill has turned for home and it is “down the stretch they come.”
That’s all we’ve got, folks. If you have any thoughts or comments you would like to share, you may post them below in the comments field or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org