Are You Ready for State-Sponsored Pari-Mutuel Gambling?

Radio Commentary, WMVV 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, January 25, 2013

By Sue Ella Deadwyler


Good morning, Jim.  Representative Harry Geisinger pre-filed H.R. 1 and H.B. 4 on November 15th.  H.R. 1 is a proposed constitutional amendment to authorize pari-mutuel betting, which is the system of betting at horse tracks.  Those betting on the winning horse share the total stakes, but the management keeps a percentage of the take.


As a proposed constitutional amendment, H.R. 1 requires two-thirds vote in both House and Senate and, if passed, would be a referendum for voters to decide on the 2014 ballot.  If the constitutional amendment is adopted by a majority of voters, H.B. 4 would be enacted to govern and regulate horse racing pari-mutuel betting in Georgia.  So, this is what would happen.


Mr. Geisinger’s H.B. 4 would authorize the governor to appoint a seven-member racing commission that must be confirmed by the House and Senate.  Initial terms of commissioners would be staggered, with future terms set at five years and possible unlimited reappointment.  Senators and representatives would NOT be eligible, while serving in the General Assembly. 


Each commissioner would get $173 per diem, plus $.555 per mile travel expense, meaning each of those unlimited meeting days would cost at least $1,211 plus travel, plus meeting space, plus staff.  Then, the appointed commissioners could do some appointing themselves.  They could appoint stewards, chemists, veterinarians, inspectors, accountants, guards and “other necessary employees” and set salaries and benefits that must be paid whether or not a dollar is ever made from horse racing.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports salaries for those positions as follows: Experienced chemists, up to $66,954, others earn from $45,147 to $50,992, typically beginning at $45,000, depending on the location; for veterinarians, $47,422 to $104,844; accountants from $30,432 to $63,286.  A major flaw in the bill is the absence of a ceiling on salaries to be paid or the number of individuals that may be hired in each category.


The Commission would establish and maintain a business office, hire a full-time executive secretary and any number of employees.  They would issue business licenses, write their own rules, regulations and policies, as well as govern audio/video simulcasts of horse races.  Holders of unlimited licenses must schedule at least 60 live racing days per year and, as a nod to compulsive gambling, the Commission would post a Gamblers Anonymous contact number.


Advance deposit account wagering would be authorized and a ten percent tax on bets would be divided between licensees and horsemen groups.  The Georgia Breeders Funds get another one-percent and the Commission decides how much state and federal income tax is withheld from winnings.  This system of wagering includes online facilities that accept bets on horse races once the gambler’s account has been funded, hence the need for experienced accountants.


This is only the beginning of this debate.  Since these bills have not been officially introduced yet and there’s no committee assignment, please express your opposition to Speaker Ralston at 404 656-5020 and Representative Geisinger at 404 656-0254 or fax him at 404 651-8086.  For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.


In case you missed this one. . .


Home Schoolers: H.B. 283 Looks Better Now

Radio Commentary, WMVV 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, March 22, 2013

By Sue Ella Deadwyler


Good morning, Jim.  A first reading of H.B. 283 introduced February 11th by Representative Brooks Coleman alarmed families who home school their children.  Especially worrisome was Section 23 (c) (2) requiring parents to report to the local school superintendent a home-schooled child suspected of having a disability.  Also, that same section deleted the law that says enrollment records and reports will not be used for other purposes.  But that has been changed!


Good news!  House and Senate committees re-wrote H.B. 283 Section 23 (c) (2), removed the new requirements and reverted back to current law.  However, they deleted “or for verification of attendance by the Department of Public Safety for the purposes set forth in subsection (a.1) of Code Section 40-5-22,” that’s now in the law.


Committees also removed Section 23 (6) (A) that allowed “a rebuttable presumption that a child is deprived,” to trigger child custody action if home-school records were not current.  Section 23 (6) (A) now contains only one sentence, which is: “A written or electronic confirmation of attendance shall be submitted annually to the department by the parent or guardian of a child attending a home study program confirming that the child has met the attendance requirements of Cod Section 20-2-690.1 for the previous school year.” 


However, the current version of H.B. 283 Section 23 (6) (B) indicates home-school data may be shared, directly contradicting current law that says attendance records and reports will not be used for anything else, unless a parent or guardian gives permission or there’s a court subpoena. 


The original version of H.B. 283 requiring parents to report a child “who is suspected of having a disability” was very unsettling.  On December 4th all of us, especially parents of disabled children, barely dodged a bullet, from potential UN interference in the care of ANY disabled person.   The issue was whether disabled children and adults in the U.S. could by-pass parents, care-takers and doctors to complain directly to the U.N. about their health care. 


Since President Obama signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on July 24, 2009, this is an imminent danger.  Thankfully, it cannot affect the U.S. unless the U.S. Senate passes it with a two-thirds vote, which is more dangerous than you think.  On December 4th, 61 of 100 U.S. senators voted FOR ratification.  So, the constitutional mandate protected us


Last September, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin thought the treaty was so good that he moved that it pass by “unanimous consent.”  If Utah’s Senator Mike Lee had not objected, it could have been instantly ratified, without a second thought or time for debate.  Thank God for stand-up Americans who still believe the U.S. is a sovereign country that should reject UN interference.

Call 404 656-0057 and ask Senate Rules Committee Chairman Mullis to delete the data sharing language, as well.   For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.