City backs horse racing, transportation bill

CONYERS -- City staff members made an appearance at the Georgia Capitol on Wednesday morning to encourage lawmakers to pass legislation for pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, in turn establishing a million-dollar industry for the state.

City Manager Tony Lucas reported to the City Council on Wednesday evening that he and Georgia International Horse Park Director Jennifer Bexley visited lawmakers.

Bexley spoke before state representatives in the Regulated Industries Committee in support of House Resolution 186.

If passed, HR 186 would make pari-mutuel betting on horse racing legal in Georgia and create a Georgia Horse Racing Commission.

Lucas said there were no negative comments about pari-mutuel betting and the horse racing industry.

A unanimous vote Wednesday morning determined that the bill will move to the Rules Committee, according to Lucas, and the House is expected to vote on it next week. He encouraged the mayor and council to call state representatives and ask lawmakers to support the vote.

"Importantly, it's not just about horse betting. It's about the industry itself," Lucas said. "There are many, many jobs -- tens of thousands of jobs -- that it could create in Georgia and millions of dollars in revenue that could come from this."

According to the resolution, revenue would only go toward trauma care services, voluntary pre-K program, and education grants, scholarships and loans.

In other council business, Mayor Randy Mills discussed updates from the Atlanta Regional Roundtable. Mills sits on the board, representing the city.

The roundtable was created out of Georgia House Bill 277, also known as the Transportation Investment Act. If passed by voters, the legislation would split the state into 12 regions to work on transportation projects and will levy a 1 percent sales tax to fund transportation projects within the newly defined special tax districts. The Transportation Investment Act required the 12 districts to have roundtable meetings and talk about those projects. The Atlanta Regional Roundtable met Feb. 17 at the Georgia Tech conference center.

Mills said Wednesday night that city councils across the state are ratifying resolutions in support of the transportation bill coming before voters in 2012. Mills said he wanted to have a discussion about the bill put on an upcoming city council agenda.

"I know there's a lot of different concerns circulating around the community as far as the percentage of what it's going to be used for," Mills said.

He described the discussion as a time to talk about the benefits of the bill.