Tag Archives: Michigan House of Representatives

Change proposed for Michigan state-bred purse supplements

The Michigan State Senate introduced an amendment to the Michigan Horse Racing Act of 1995 on Tuesday to account for the possibility of no live Thoroughbred racing in 2011.

Senate Bill 434, introduced by Fowlerville Sen. Joe Hune, would distribute Michigan’s state-bred purse supplements to horses that win allowance or claiming races outside the state if no live racing is held within the fiscal year. Michigan’s current fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture.

Here is the proposed language to be added to the Act (section 6.A). The new addition is in bold…

(a) A sum to be allotted thoroughbred race meeting licensees to supplement the purses for races to be conducted exclusively for Michigan bred horses. If, during a fiscal year, live thoroughbred horse races are not conducted at a licensed race meeting in this state, the sum appropriated under this subdivision shall be paid at the end of the fiscal year to supplement the purses of Michigan bred thoroughbred horses that win allowance and claiming races at licensed horse race tracks outside of this state.

To read the bill, click here.

To follow the bill as it makes its way through the Capitol, click here.

UPDATE: A similar bill is making its way through the State House of Representatives regarding Michigan’s breeder’s award program. Here is the language that would be changed in HB 4784…

If, during a fiscal year, live Thoroughbred horse races are not conducted at a licensed race meeting in this state, a sum shall be appropriated under this subdivision to pay breeders’ awards, in amounts not to exceed 10%  of the gross purses, to the breeders of Michigan bred Thoroughbred horses that win at races conducted at licensed horse racetracks outside of this state.

The bill, introduced last Thursday by Rep. Cindy Denby, was read for a first time and referred to the House Committee on Appropriations.

To read the bill’s language, click here.

To track the bill as it makes its way through Lansing, click here.

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Michigan Notebook: April 15, 2011

– Mum remains the word regarding the status of Michigan’s flat racing schedule for 2011, as the Michigan Gaming Control Board continues to mull over the fate of Pinnacle Race Course’s provisional racing license. The track has been closed for business since the end of last year’s meet.

An emergency meeting was scheduled between the Gaming Control Board and the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association for April 14, but the HBPA website reports that the meeting had been cancelled.

From the Michigan HBPA website…

MGCB MEETING CANCELLED!!!!  for Thur. 12/14… No reason given, but will be scheduled for another time. It is a shame what’s going on with respect to horse racing. How does one run their business under these circumstances? Horsemen and women deserve better after all the years of being a productive industry for the state. It is becoming more difficult to argue with comments, that this industry is being systematically dismantled. Would this happen with an industry having 12,000 jobs in one place, rather than scattered around the state in almost every county? One location has only couple of legislators, the horse racing has many more, where are they?

– Michigan HBPA

– After a months-long period of inactivity, the bill to include a “representative of the equine industry” on the Michigan Gaming Control Board has again seen the light of day in the state’s House of Representatives. On April 12, the bill was referred to a second reading before the entire House after receiving approval from the House Committee on Agriculture. Follow the activity of HB 4151 as it makes its way through Lansing here.

– A piece of Michigan fair racing history is currently up for sale on eBay. A pair of racing programs from the 1924 Alpena County Fair is being offered on the auction website with a pair of Alpena Sports Hall of Fame programs. It is not specified whether the programs for the northeast Lower Peninsula fair feature flat or harness racing. As of the time this was first posted, five days remain to place a bid on the programs.

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House GOP includes horse racing in Ag Task Force report

Crain’s Detroit Business reports a Michigan House of Representatives Republican task force has laid out a plan to improve the state’s agriculture industry which includes reforms to horse racing.

The task force, chaired by Fowlerville Rep. Cindy Denby, submitted the report following a series of town hall-style meetings and tours with members of the agriculture community last summer.

Among the topics discussed, the task force reviews how the state’s racing industry reached the shaky ground on which it stands today and revealed its strategy to reverse the trend.

The report examines the racing industry’s transfer to the Michigan Gaming Control Board, the subsequent slashing of race dates and how funding to the state’s Agriculture Equine Industry Development Fund has fallen through decreased income and more outside hands taking from the proverbial cookie jar.

To combat the financial shortfalls, the task force notes the recommendation by those in the racing industry to implement “instant gaming”, which has been approved in Nebraska, among other states. One would assume the report is referring to “instant racing” which has been successful in Arkansas (Nebraska just shot down instant racing, actually), but at least they are open to the idea.

Instant racing, which allows bettors to play stripped-down versions of previously run races, is viewed by the task force as “a solution that would not be expanding gambling, yet would provide an additional source of funding for the equine industry.”

The report also notes the lack of public knowledge regarding the racing industry and its situation, and calls for an increase in efforts to educate the population about the importance of horse racing in Michigan.

The section continues with a review of the Ag Equine Fund and its declining numbers. Noted in the report are the transfers of monies to the state’s general fund, testing for bovine tuberculosis and the end of the casino wagering tax on Detroit’s three non-tribal casinos.

At the end of the report’s horse racing segment, the task force offers the following points of action…

SHORT AND LONG TERM SOLUTIONS NEEDED TO SUSTAIN THE INDUSTRY:

– Develop cooperation between the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) and racing owners to help promote Michigan horse racing.

– Amend the make-up of the MGCB by requiring inclusion of horse industry representatives on the board.

– Require transparency of the MGCB and legislative oversight of the costs associated with horse racing breed by breed.

– Educate the public on the importance of horse racing to the state’s economy.

– Restrict appropriations from the equine fund to horse racing uses.

To view the full report, click here. The section highlighting the horse racing industry begins on page 15.

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House passes bill to restore race dates

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.

The bill passed in the House by a vote of 106-2. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations on Tuesday. To track the bill, and all its changes, through Lansing, click here.

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.

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Keeping in touch

In my never-ending quest to become the one-stop source for most of your Michigan racing needs, I have added a new page listing contact information for the state’s horsemen’s groups and other important entities. Also listed are links to pages to help locate your representatives in Lansing.

We are approaching an important year in the history of the Michigan racing industry. The industry may be moving under the umbrella of the Gaming Control Board in January, and the summer and fall will likely be spent on the campaign trail to support a slots issue on the November ballot.

With that in mind, it is more important than ever to stay in contact with your horsemen’s groups and congressmen and women in Lansing to let them know how you can help and how you can be helped. Communication is key at a time like this, and the list is a good place to start.

To view the list, click on the “Industry” link at the top of the page or click here.

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State Congress pushes racing funding bill through in the nick of time

Good news from the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association website:

Your efforts have helped a great deal!  Our bill has changed to HB4311 and has passed the Senate!  As of 2:37 p.m. the bill was concurred with in the House.  It now moves to the Governor for her signature.  We have been notified that the Governor intends to sign this bill the morning of 11/6/09.  The ORC office was contacted this afternoon by the Governor’s office and instructed to report for work tomorrow, 11/6/09.

Prior to the Legislature’s rapid action to approve the funding, all live and simulcast racing in the state of Michigan was scheduled to shut down indefinitely at midnight tonight.

HB4311 was initially a bill to fund correctional services, scholarships and election reform projects. It appears the racing-related items were added on along with funding for community health programs, wetland protection and can & bottle return fraud protection.

The bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 32-2 with with three abstentions. It then went back to the House where it was approved by a 91-12 margin with seven not voting. Click the links to see the roll call votes from each chamber.

In the midst of the shift over to the new bill, the Senate also modified the amount of funding to the three racing-related line items. The Office of Racing Commissioner and Producer Security (Grain Elevators) line items saw a decrease, while the Horse Racing Indusrty Programs line saw increased funds.

For a spreadsheet detailing the changes in funding between the  bills, click here.

For more information on HB4311, click here.

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House passes ORC, industry funding bill

The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday to partially restore funding to the state’s racing industry, including $2.5 million to the Office of Racing Commissioner.

The bill will next be put before the Senate where, if approved, it will likely do away with the announced statewide halt on live and simulcast racing on Nov. 5.

The deadline was announced following Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s veto of a previous bill to fund the ORC through licensing fees from the three non-tribal casinos in Detroit. In the current bill, the funding will come from the Ag Equine Fund, supported by a 3.5% tax on simulcast wagering and other racetrack-related income. The Associated Press reports Granholm supports the change.

Other items restored by the bill include $3.9 million to industry programs such as purse supplements, Sire Stakes purses and breeders’ awards. An additional $989,500 was allotted to “Horse Racing and Producer Security”, which supports the grain elevator industry and its suppliers.

HB 4288 passed by a margin of 105-1. For more information on the vote, click here.

According to the Michigan HBPA website, the Senate will have its first opportunity to act on the bill on Nov. 3, following a required five-day period between chamber actions.

For analysis of the bill from the House Fiscal Agency, click here.

For more information on HB 4288 and to track its progress through Lansing, the bill’s webpage can be found here.

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Executive order dissolves Office of Racing Commissioner

The Michigan News reports Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed an executive order yesterday, combining several existing state departments into the new Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

In the same order, Granholm abolished Michigan’s Office of Racing Commissioner, and consolidated horse racing activities into the Michigan Gaming Control Board. The board’s executive director, Richard S. Kalm, will “perform the functions of Racing Commissioner.”

In other news out of Lansing, WXYZ – Channel 7 in Detroit reports the state’s House Appropriations Committee may soon vote to spend $20,000 to study expanded gaming options at Michigan’s racetracks to increase revenues. The two options under consideration are instant racing and electronic pull tab machines. The report notes any adopted plan will likely be met with lawsuits.

Right now, I am on a complementary one-hour wi-fi connection in a Lexington, KY McDonald’s, so this post has to be short and sweet. Expect more information as it becomes available and my connection improves.

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Help Michigan horsemen fight for their funding

As readers of this blog and followers of the Michigan racing industry know, the future of the sport in this state could potentially rest in the hands of our elected officials in Lansing.

Following Gov. Jennifer Graholm’s proposed cuts to the Michigan Ag Equine Fund, including drastic cuts to the state’s Equine Industry Fund and the disbanding of the owner’s and breeder’s incentive programs, the state Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee responded by restoring the monies to about 89% of the 2008/09 budget. Obviously, any cut hurts, but at least this will allow the industry to survive for the time being.

For a condensed version of the Senate’s proposed budget changes, click here. For an line item-by-line item overview, click here.

The issue will now head to the House of Representatives when the Legislature reconvienes from spring recess on April 21. The House Appropriations Sub Committee on Agriculture will draw up its own proposal for the ag-related funds, which will then be voted on by the entire House. After the revised budget is approved in a joint session, it will be put before the Governor for her approval.

Though the Senate proposed that most of the monies be restored, this does not guarantee the House will follow suit. The Equine Industry Fund is still in jeopardy. 

Because of this, the Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association is encouraging participants, fans and others with interest in the racing industry to contact the members of the Michigan House Appropriations Sub Committee on Agriculture to let them know how important horse racing is in this state and how losing the industry would produce more long-term negatives than the temporary benefits of cuts can relieve. 

As I stated when the issue was put before the Senate, if you are affected by Michigan racing in any way – be it as a friend or relative of a horseman, an operator of a business frequented by a racetracker or breeder, or even someone who just likes to go to the track once a year and play the Kentucky Derby, I encourage you to join me in signing the letters offered below and telling the members of the sub committee to at least keep the funding at the level proposed by the Senate. Every letter counts, and a big stack of them will make a big impression.

For those interested in taking action, here are the letters offered from the MTOBA website. If you did not receive a pre-addressed letter from MTOBA and would like to help, the addresses of the subcommittee members are listed at the top of each page. For more information on the issue and how you can help, please contact MTOBA.

John Espinoza – Chair of the House Appropriations Sub Committee on Agriculture Gary

McDowell – Majority Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Sub Committee on Agriculture

Matt Lori – Minority Chair of the House Appropriations Sub Committee on Agriculture

Thanks again for your time and support of the Michigan horse racing industry.

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