By Matt Hegarty
A Louisiana lawmaker on Monday withdrew a bill [HB 585] that would have diverted $36 million from purse subsidies to a popular scholarship program, in an acknowledgement that the legislation would not pass out of a committee.
Jay Morris, a Republican representing a northern district of the state, voluntarily pulled the bill from consideration after members of the House Appropriations Committee raised objections to the legislation, citing the impact it could have on the racing industry in the state.
“I knew it was a foregone conclusion that this will not make it out of committee,” Morris said after earlier citing the large number of phone calls that racing industry supporters had made to committee members over the weekend. Morris said that he may return with legislation that would call for a study of the potential impact of the bill.
The bill would have cut in half the amount of casino subsidies going to purses and breeders’ awards in the state, redirecting them to the state’s Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, which provides stipends for college education. Horsemen had said that the impact would “destroy” the racing industry in the state.
Committee members said that they supported legislation to shore up the TOPS program, but said that funding for the program should instead come from a source other than the racing industry. Rep. James Armes, who said that he had received 37 calls from horsemen over the weekend, said that he could not support a measure that would “penalize” people who had invested money in their horse operations based on the impact of the subsidies.
“If we take it from them they are going to go out of business, and we’re not going to have a race industry,” Armes said.