Baltimore lawmakers in the Maryland House of Delegates voted unanimously Saturday to oppose a measure to let The Stronach Group use state bonds to pay for improvements at tracks at Laurel and Bowie, due to concerns about moving the Preakness horse race out of Baltimore to one of those tracks.
The delegation voted 16-0 to oppose the measure. That sends a strong message of local opposition to the House, which would have to approve a bill advancing in the Senate to send it to Gov. Larry Hogan before the legislative session ends Monday at midnight.
Under state law, the middle jewel of the Triple Crown can only be moved to another track in Maryland "as a result of a disaster or emergency." But the Canada-based company that owns the rundown 150-year-old Pimlico Race Course has made it clear it wants to move the race. While the measure would require Stronach to redevelop Pimlico to get the bond money, delegates expressed concern that the bill did not address the loss of revenue the city would experience by losing the race, if it were moved.
"There is nothing in the amended version of this bill that speaks to addressing the loss of the economic impact," said Del. Keith Haynes, a Baltimore Democrat, who noted that estimates put the economic impact of that one day of racing during Preakness at about $50 million.
Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Democrat, said she voted with her colleagues who represent the neighborhoods around Pimlico, and she said while she saw some good features in the measure, there also was "a lot lacking." Del. Cheryl Glenn, a Democrat who chairs the delegation, agreed.
"I want to also echo what Del. McIntosh just said, because it concerns me that we don't have a representative on the racing commission, and we know that there's a strong sentiment for wanting to move the Preakness, and I do worry that the city is not at the table, so we've got a lot of work to do," Glenn said.
Meanwhile, the House advanced a measure to increase Maryland's use of renewable energy.
The Senate has passed the measure, but the House made some changes. The Senate bill would have eliminated trash incineration as eligible for subsidies like wind and solar energy, a provision that was in the bill initially. But the House put the provision back in to allow waste-to-energy to be in the "top tier" of renewable energy.
Del. Dan Cox, a Republican, said he will try to amend the bill Monday to remove trash incinerators from the bill again.
"I think it's not helpful that we subsidize that as part of the green energy plan," Cox said.
The bill would increase the state's Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard from 25 percent by 2020 to 50 percent by 2030. Supporters say it would increase jobs in the renewable energy field.
The differences in the bill would need to be reconciled before the General Assembly adjourns to send the bill to Hogan.