MD Senate approves Racing Development Act on 44-1 vote

The Maryland Senate March 6 overwhelming passed the Racing and Community Development Act of 2020, which now goes to the House of Delegates for consideration.

There was no discussion before the vote, which was registered at 44-1. It came almost a year after Maryland lawmakers shot down a plan to rebuild Laurel Park but not Pimlico Race Course, which hosts the Preakness Stakes, third leg of the Triple Crown.

The current plan calls for a bond issue of roughly $350 million to rebuild Pimlico into a racing and events center and greatly overhaul Laurel and its barn area. The measure also is tied to continued reforms in equine health, safety and welfare.

"What a difference a year makes," Senate President Bill Ferguson said after the vote.

The Senate bill was sponsored by Guy Guzzone, who chairs the chamber's Budget and Taxation Committee. The bill passed the committee unanimously a week ago.

"Last year when we left the (General Assembly) session the issue of Pimlico and the Preakness was in grave doubt," Guzzone said March 3 when the bill was discussed on the Senate floor. "This committee reviewed the plan and spent a lot of time thinking of the details of it."

There were multiple amendments to the Senate bill when it was introduced, but most of them were language tweaks or technical in nature. A provision that would have mandated the Maryland Jockey Club to convey the entire Bowie Training Center to other entities was changed to say "if" the property is conveyed; the House version of the legislation calls for formation of a task force to determine future uses of the property.

The House bill was subject of hearing in the chamber's Ways and Means Committee but did not go the floor. It's possible the House—the bill's sponsor is Speaker Adrienne Jones—will offer its own amendments to the Senate bill.

The legislation deals primarily with the funding mechanism for the projects, involvement by the Maryland Stadium Authority and the transfer of land to city or county governments. The actual construction and transition plan during the projects would be hashed out at a later date.

More information on the legislation is available here.

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