|Grassroots Efforts a Success, VLTs Quest Continues
On Tuesday, in response to our "Urgent Notice" that we posted
on this website, we had over 100 members of our industry show up at the
Capitol. Armed with talking points and "leave-behind" material,
these individuals starting knocking on doors and speaking with members
of the legislature. The feedback that was received today from House members
indicates that we definitely made an impression.
"It was great to look at the House gallery and see that about half
of the people there were horsemen," stated Tommy J. Azopardi, Executive
Director of the Texas Horsemen's Partnership.
In a disappointing move, the House accepted a motion to strip VLTs out
of House Bill 1. However, we were told by our lobby team that this was
probably going to be necessary in order to get a majority vote on the
bill at this point and send the bill over to the Senate.
"Unfortunately, the news of VLTs being taken out of the bill sent
shock waves through our industry and gave many horsemen the mistaken idea
that our efforts were dead or that we were going to have to start over,”
explained Azopardi. "This is just not true, and it is a prime example
of where hasty, incomplete or inaccurate information is so harmful."
On first call, the House rejected House Bill 1, even without the VLT
language, but it ultimately passed the bill by a narrow 73-70 margin on
a motion to reconsider after a brief recess.
Subsequently on Wednesday, the House took up House Joint Resolution 1,
which is the constitutional amendment provision. There was a similar amendment
to strip the VLTs out of that bill as well, but this time the amendment
failed by a vote of 57-84. VLTs stayed in HJR1, but the whole bill ultimately
failed by a resounding margin. Most people predicted failure, and it really
doesn't deter from the overall process.
Now, the Senate has a bill with which they can start to work. We are
reasonably hopeful that favorable VLT language will be put in the Senate
version of a bill, and that there are enough votes to pass it. Once the
Senate passes a bill, which presumably will be different from the House
version, then it will go back to the House for concurrence. It is highly
doubtful that the House of Representatives will concur, so the bill will
be referred to a Conference Committee. This committee will hopefully work
out a "compromise" bill that contains our favorable language,
and then it will be sent to each chamber for vote.
"The most important thing for our horsemen to know is that we still
have a chance to get video lottery terminals, and they need to keep up
the grassroots effort," asserted Azopardi. "If you know anyone
that has not communicated with their legislators in both written and verbal
form, please encourage them to write letters and start making phone calls.
Don't wait until it's too late. It would be a shame to fall only a few
votes short and know that we could have made a difference with a five
minute phone call.