Kentucky Racing Panel Amendment Generates Conflict

An amendment to require the new 13-member Kentucky Horse Racing Authority to have no more than seven members of the same political party isn't expected to thwart Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher's plans, a state senator said March 25.

Fletcher abolished the Kentucky Racing Commission earlier this year and created the authority, which has 11 Republicans and two Democrats. On March 24, Rep. Larry Clark, a Louisville Democrat, attached an amendment to the reorganization bill that would enact the party requirement and also mandate that at least two members of the authority be from each congressional district.

The measure goes to the House of Representatives for a vote, but Rep. Sen. Damon Thayer said it faces a rocky road thereafter.

"As far as I'm concerned, the bill is dead," Thayer said. "Even if the House passes it, the Senate won't concur. If that's the case, Gov. Fletcher would issue another executive order that would be in place until the legislature reconvenes next January."

The amendment is unusual. Generally, the legislature allows the governor to reorganize an administration with little opposition. Thayer said Clark's amendment caught him by surprise.

"If he was so concerned with the racing commission, why didn't he try to make changes when Paul Patton was governor?" Thayer said. "It's pure politics. It's shameful."

Clark was the sponsor of racetrack casino legislation that died during the current session. He was extremely critical of the racing industry and apparently has gone from friend to foe. His casino bill would have required Churchill Downs to locate its casino in downtown Louisville.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Clark, once a strong industry supporter, was asked March 24 to back away from his amendment. "I got burned out this session with that industry," he said.