FRANKFORT (KT) — Lawmakers return to Frankfort on Tuesday, to begin the second part of the 2021 General Assembly with a state budget, gambling, and veto overrides among items to be addressed.

There are four budget bills under consideration, for the Executive Branch, Transportation Cabinet, Legislative Branch and Judicial Branch.

All four were passed as continuations of the current fiscal year.  The Senate did make minor changes in each, which required concurrence by the House.  They would not agree, and the Senate would not back down from their changes, so conference committees were named to begin the real work on crafting a budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.

This marked a change from previous years, where the House would spend a month or more to craft a complete budget, the Senate would then come up with their own version, the House would not agree to the changes made by the Senate, and conference committees would then be named.  This way, they were able to get the budget bills into the conference committees after just eight legislative days, instead of waiting for the waning days of the session.

Historical horse racing, which the Kentucky Supreme Court determined last September was not pari-mutuel wagering and therefore is not legal in Kentucky, may have new life as legislation will soon be filed to legalize it.

The high court denied a motion for rehearing in January, which essentially ended a decade long battle over the legality issue.  It also led to the temporary closing of the historical horse racing facility at Lexington’s Red Mile, a few days later.

This prompted Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, to announce he will file legislation Tuesday to allow historical horse racing.

“The bill, which I am pleased to say will be co-sponsored by Senate President Robert Stivers, will address the recent Kentucky Supreme Court decision on pari-mutuel wagering and ensure that historical horse racing facilities are able to continue operating, while employing Kentuckians, generating state tax revenue and strengthening our signature equine industry,” Schickel said.

The measure will be taken up on Thursday by the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee, of which Schickel serves as chairman.

In response to that, Richard Nelson of the Commonwealth Policy Center noted that the threat of tracks losing tens of millions in new infrastructure costs is real, as is the prospect of the state losing $21 million in tax revenue.  Still, he stated:

“State-sponsored gambling hurts people on a wide scale, especially the poor.  They’re sold a bill of goods that promises them a way out of their poverty. But the path toward a better life doesn’t come by pushing the button and being mesmerized by spinning wheels. The bells and whistles and even an occasional win are more likely to lead to more poverty. As much as casino interests talk about jobs and the economy, they certainly don’t specialize in altruism and the well-being of players. They make money through people losing. 

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