11/06/2015 3:21PM

Texas Racing Commission funding request under review


A Texas Racing Commission request to extend funding for its administrative costs beyond Nov. 30 is under review, according to a representative of the state’s legislative budget board. The commission is operating under a temporary funding plan, and if its request is not granted by the end of the month, racing in Texas would be forced to shut down.

The legislative budget board has no scheduled meetings, but there does not need to be a vote on the request, according to the panel representative.

Texas was forced to shut down racing for a day earlier this year when funding for its administrative costs was not released by an Aug. 31 fiscal deadline. After the one-day ripple Sept. 1, a temporary funding plan through Nov. 30 was approved by Gov. Greg Abbott. The funding conflict has been tied to an August vote by the commission not to repeal rules for historical racing that it put in place during the latter part of 2014.

The commission’s adoption of those rules was challenged in court by charitable bingo and tribal interests. A judge ruled that the agency does not have the jurisdiction to pass such rules and that such matters should be up to the legislature. Sam Houston Race Park, as well as the Texas Horsemen’s Partnership, the Texas Thoroughbred Association, and the Texas Quarter Horse Association, appealed the decision due to the potential impact on horsemen’s livelihood.

Jan Haynes, president of the Texas Horsemen’s Partnership, said briefs in the appeal were due the first week in November. She believes an initial hearing in the case will be held the first week of December.

“I don’t know that the judge has signed off on that,” Haynes said of the protocols.

The hearing is to determine whether those appealing the ruling have standing in the suit as the commission was named in the original case. The commission did not appeal.

The live racing season in Texas ends Nov. 14 with the close of the Quarter Horse meet at Lone Star Park. Sam Houston’s meet for Thoroughbreds is scheduled to open in January, but a number of horsemen in the state already have sent stables to Delta Downs in Louisiana, while others are seeking stalls at Oaklawn in Arkansas and Sunland Park in New Mexico. The uncertain future of racing in Texas appears to be taking its toll.

“Our membership has stepped up when we asked them to reach out to these senators and representatives,” said Haynes. “They’ve made thousands of calls. People are scared. Some of these guys are fourth-generation horsemen, and all of the sudden, they have to pack up and move. It’s devastating.”

Haynes said her organization has requested a meeting with the office of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

“We want to explain to them what the horse industry means to Texas,” she said.