The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill on Mar. 18 to restore some race dates taken away by the Michigan Gaming Control Board on March 3.
The bill, HB 5407, proposes to transfer $308,688 from the Purses and Supplements line item of the Ag Equine Development Fund to the Office of Racing Commissioner to help fund the regulatory body. According to the House Fiscal Agency’s analysis of the bill, an additional $36,458 would be kicked in by “private funds from the horse racing industry”.
The analysis projects this additional funding to the ORC would help restore 46 race dates that were taken away by the cuts. The total number of days reduced in the Mar. 12 announcement by the Gaming Control Board was 112. It is not specified how the dates would be distributed between the four racetracks affected by the announcement.
Also included are a few interesting boilerplate items that suggest the State Legislature may be looking for some answers from horse racing’s new regulators. Among the items listed is a request for a status report from the MGCB regarding the transfer of the ORC into its jurisdiction. However, the highlight of the boilerplate items is the third item as seen below in the Fiscal Agency’s “Cliff Notes” version…
3. Cost of Conducting Race Dates
Requires the Michigan Gaming Control Board to use actual cost data in determining regulatory costs of conducting horse racing dates, and requires reporting. Requires refund if costs charged to certified horsemen’s organizations is more than determined actual costs.
As many who follow Michigan’s racing industry know, the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has been investigating the reasons behind the jump in required funding for the ORC from last year. In 2009, the horsemen’s organizations paid $4,700 per additional race date to keep the ORC going at the tracks. This year, the fee has jumped $5,923 per race date.
One of the two “No” votes came from Representative Justin Amash (R – Kentwood) from Michigan’s 72nd House District.
From Amash’s Facebook Page…
“Just voted no on HB 5407, which makes supplemental appropriations related to horse racing (we were told that money is just being “moved around”). Leadership pushed the bill onto the floor to resolve an alleged “emergency” with respect to racing dates. Legislators were given only minutes to read and analyze the bill. It passed 106-2.”
Thanks to Ragman for pointing that out.
Considering it was read and revised three times, I am surprised Mr. Amash was not made aware of the bill earlier. I will give Mr. Amash the benefit of the doubt, as he may not have enough knowledge about the racing industry to make an informed decision, which would be a shame for everyone involved. If that is the case, there are many fine people in this state, probably even in his own district, who would be happy to educate him.
Also, as someone who has eyes on a U.S. Senate seat in November, it is easy to posture oneself as someone who “takes a stand” to voters with a vote like this. However, given the circumstances Amash provides, if he truly did not have the time and background knowledge to make an intelligent decision on the issue, the ethical thing to do would have been to abstain instead of trying to make a statement, and toying with the fates of the state’s horsemen, with a “no” vote.