12/15/2015 8:07PM

Texas keeps historical racing rules for now

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The Texas Racing Commission kept historical racing rules on the books at a lengthy meeting Tuesday, but will revisit the topic of repealing those rules as early as February, according to the agency’s spokesman, Robert Elrod.

There were two separate votes on historical racing issues Tuesday. The commission first voted 4-4 with one abstention not to repeal the rules it put in place in 2014, said Elrod. The panel later voted to republish the proposed rules that would repeal historical racing for a 30-day public comment period in a move that enables the commission to take up the vote to repeal the rules at a future meeting. The comment period opens Jan. 1, said Elrod.

The next likely commission meeting will be the second Tuesday in February, according to Elrod.

Also at the meeting, the new chairman of the commission, Rolando Pablos, directed the agency’s executive director to formulate a plan to “responsibly” close down agency operations in the event commission funding beyond a February deadline is not granted by the state’s legislative budget board. The commission is currently operating on a temporary funding plan.

The funding issue arose this past summer after the commission did not repeal historical racing rules during an August vote on the matter. About a week later, racing in Texas was shut down for a day when the state’s legislative budget board failed to grant funding for the commission’s administrative expenses by a fiscal deadline. A temporary plan was then announced enabling the commission to operate through Nov. 30. Last month, that plan was extended through Feb. 29.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is among the state’s politicians who have urged the commission to repeal historical racing, and he issued a statement on the action taken Tuesday.

“I am extremely disappointed that the Texas Racing Commission failed to repeal historical racing,” he said in the statement. “Previously, a state district court judge ruled historical racing rules adopted by the commission exceeded the commission’s authority granted to them by the Texas Legislature. Members of the legislature also expressed their opposition in a letter to the commission stating they did not have the authority to enact this rule.”

Patrick also discussed the Tuesday vote on historical racing.

“Recently, the governor appointed three members to the commission,” he said in part in the statement. “Two of those members voted to repeal historical racing and one did not…”

The meeting Tuesday was the first for the new commissioners.

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, the Texas Thoroughbred Association sent a letter to Patrick noting that an appeal is pending concerning the judge’s ruling on historical racing.

The next scheduled meet for Texas is the Sam Houston season for Thoroughbreds that opens Jan. 15 and runs into March.