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September, 2015

Horse Racing Interests Ask Texas Rangers To Investigate Sen. Jane Nelson Over Racing Commission Budget Dustup

A protracted standoff that could lead to the closure of race tracks around the state has been ratcheted up
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A protracted standoff that could lead to the closure of race tracks around the state has been ratcheted up A protracted standoff that could lead to the closure of race tracks around the state has been ratcheted up as some in the horseracing industry this week asked the Texas Rangers to investigate Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, for her actions surrounding this issue.
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A protracted standoff that could lead to the closure of race tracks around the state has been ratcheted up as some in the horseracing industry this week asked the Texas Rangers to investigate Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, for her actions surrounding this issue.

Nelson and other conservative lawmakers have had the Texas Racing Commission in their sights ever since the agency last year approved rules allowing for "historical racing" at race tracks. The rules were adopted over the objections of Republican lawmakers who said the agency was acting outside its constitutional authority.

For those who are unfamiliar with "historical racing," the machines allow a gambler to bet on previously-run races. Critics say they are a form of slot machines, which would be illegal in Texas. Proponents, including some race tracks, have argued "historical racing" is not an expansion of gambling but instead is a natural extension of pari-mutuel betting - which is already legal in Texas.

As part of the budget process, Sen. Nelson has created an extra hurdle for commission to be able to continue to be funded beyond the end of this month. She had originally zeroed out the commission's funding at the beginning of the session. Later, a budget rider by Nelson required the agency's administrative funding to be requested for approval by the Legislative Budget Board, on which Nelson sits.

It has been previously reported that an agreement is expected, but in a letter dated Monday, Texas Thoroughbred HBPA President Jan Haynes said that the "Racing Commission is being bullied and power misappropriated from Senator Nelson to the legislative budget board."

"Only the legislature can make laws," Haynes said. "Not individuals or a state agency. Next time, is Senator Nelson going to threaten an agency if they do not let her son or daughter into college?"

As a member of the LBB, one might expect that Nelson would lead the charge to deny the agency's funding if it does not drop its rules allowing for the historical racing machines. But, Nelson said the commission has not yet submitted its budget request to the LBB.

"When they do submit their request for funds, we will give it full consideration as we do all budget requests," Nelson said. "Right now there isn't anything to approve or disapprove," she said.

By the end of the month, the LBB is expected to provide the Racing Commission with details on specifically what it needs to do to continue to receive funding.

A spokesman for the commission has said that they do have plans to shut down if needed, but they don't really expect that to happen.

Copyright August 11, 2015, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com. All rights are reserved. Reprinted with permission.