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Horse racing board gets slapped

By Aaron Kinney
Wednesday, May 9th, 2007 at 6:37 pm in Uncategorized.

A budget subcommittee of the state Senate slashed the California Horse Racing Board’s budget for the coming year to zero Wednesday over frustrations with how the organization is being managed.

Adam Keigwin, spokesman for state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said the move was designed to send the message that those who run the organization need to “clean up their act.”

Last month, Yee introduced a resolution calling for the resignation of Board President Richard Shapiro. Yee filed the motion after the board denied an application by Bay Meadows race track for a two-year exemption to a rule mandating state tracks to install a synthetic racing surface by the end of the year.

Yee also is calling for the Legislature to reject the reconfirmation of Board Member John Amerman. Yee maintains that Shapiro and Amerman have presided over an organization with questionable administrative practices and plummeting morale. The board has also been fined $20,000 for failing to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request, according to Yee.

But Wednesday’s decision indicates Yee – who counts San Mateo, the home of Bay Meadows, among his constituencies – isn’t the only legislator who’s fed up with the board, since Yee doesn’t even sit on the budget subcommittee that “zeroed out” the board’s budget.

The three-member committee, chaired by state Sen. Michael Machado, D-Linden (San Joaqin County), was asked to approve Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget for the board of $10.8 million, an increase of 4 percent over this year’s expenditures.

In addition, the board requested a new position to beef up the organization’s in-house legal team – at a cost of $170,200 a year. Perhaps the request gave subcommittee members the impression that the board’s lawyers have too much work on their hands.

Keigwin said that, despite the subcommittee’s brinkmanship, the board’s funding will eventually be restored.

“Someone needs to regulate horseracing, so it’s not likely they’ll be dissolved,” said Keigwin. “But the budget subcommittee sent a very clear message that they do need to respond to the concerns that we’ve raised.”

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