Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
April 17, 2016 – 12:05 PM

  • Legislature micromanages horse racing, liquor trade
  • Approving Arabian horse races rates an ‘urgency’ bill
  • Important issues languish in preoccupation with minor matters

One might think – or at least hope –that the men and women who occupy the state Capitol would devote themselves tirelessly to resolving complex issues of a very diverse and difficult-to-govern state.

Poverty, water supply, educational shortcomings, traffic congestion and housing shortages are just a few of those knotty issues that seem to limp along year after year without resolution.

Much of the Legislature’s time and energy, however, is consumed by what most of us would consider picayune matters, and none of its preoccupations is less worthy than two relics of a bygone era – prescribing the minute details of horse racing and liquor sales.

Most Californians would be surprised – and should be angered – to learn that the Legislature reserves to itself the power to dictate which breed of horse can race at which track on which day.

The rationale for that micromanaging, whatever it once may have been, has long since vanished. Horse racing is a dying business – or sport – with several major tracks having closed their paddocks in recent years. For the Legislature to continue its involvement is beyond irrational, yet it does.

Very recently, Gov. Jerry Brown signed an “urgency bill” to allow the California Horse Racing Board to sanction up to six races by Arabian horses a year, joining the other breeds that already enjoy legal status.

“This act is an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety within the meaning of Article IV of the Constitution and shall go into immediate effect,” Assembly Bill 558 declares. “The facts constituting the necessity are:

“In order to ensure that the horse racing industry may continue to offer the highest level of racing possible and promote horse racing in California, it is necessary that this act take effect immediately.”

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