MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A bill that would affect horse and dog racing as well as the lottery industry will not be taken up for final passage during the 2016 West Virginia legislative session at the Capitol.
Instead, a study resolution will be drafted on the subject of Senate Bill 64. Once a study resolution has been made, the joint committee on Government and Finance would be asked to consider the resolution.
“I just think there were a number of questions associated with the legislation,” said Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, who serves on the House Finance Committee where the bill was pending. “The amendment also raised a lot of questions. There’s not really anything like that in other areas of code where the legislature would actually have to ratify and potentially override the referendum recall.”
The added amendment would have called for a special election that would have to be approved county by county, and those election results would then have to be approved by the West Virginia Legislature in order for the law to be enacted.
Jefferson County Commissioner Dale Manuel said he was happy to hear that the bill had died. The Jefferson County Commission delivered a resolution to the House and the Senate last week in opposition to the legislation and in support of the horse racing industry.
“The most discouraging and upsetting part of the legislation was the referendum,” Manuel said. “It was very upsetting to me, all the voters in Jefferson County and the individuals in the county who felt they had made a pact with the legislature; they felt betrayed by the referendum.”
Many supporters of the Eastern Panhandle thoroughbred horse racing industry traveled to Charleston last week to speak out against the bill, fearing the negative effect the legislation would have had on the horse racing industry.
According to language in the bill, it would have transferred certain revenues derived from racetrack video lottery and racetrack table games from a special fund established for greyhound racetrack licensees to the State Excess Lottery Revenue Fund.
The legislation would also defund the West Virginia Greyhound Breeding Development Fund and the Licensed Racetrack Modernization Fund and transfer money dedicated to the State Excess Lottery Revenue Fund for appropriation by the Legislature.
While this particular bill will not see a final vote during the session, Espinosa said it is possible that the mission of the bill could be amended into another bill for passage.
“It is not uncommon toward the end of the session for individuals to look for vehicles by which they can offer amendments to achieve other pieces of legislation,” Espinosa said.
Manuel, who served in the West Virginia Legislature in the past, echoed Espinosa’s words.
“I would just say as a former legislator, and I’m pretty sure the (Eastern Panhandle) delegates and senators would agree, that we’re not out of the woods yet,” Manuel said. “You never know when that issue could reoccur and appear in an amendment or something, but I’m glad that the bill itself is dead and the issue is probably dead.”
For now, the bill will not become law in the upcoming year.
“I just think (the legislation) is something the subcommittee and committee as a whole need to look at more closely through a study resolution,” Espinosa said.
For more information on the bill, visit bit.ly/1X8IaGD.
Staff writer Emily Daniels can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 132, or twitter.com/emilykdaniels.