Despite being one of only two Republican Senators refusing to sign on in support of the Senate’s bipartisan property tax relief measure, State Sen. Kel Seliger is authoring legislation aimed at giving horse and dog racing tracks special treatment—a 100% refund of sales, franchise, mixed beverage, and other taxes.

Under the proposed act, SB 1027, the Texas Racing Commission would be empowered to order the Comptroller to refund all taxes paid by the tracks as a “purse enhancement refund.” The refunded money would be used to pay off winners of horse and dog races.

Such a reward comes as the Racing Commission has been under constant fire by lawmakers for attempting to usurp the power of the legislature. Last year, while the legislature was not in session, the Racing Commission adopted new rules and procedures to radically expand gambling in Texas, despite a letter from the Senate Republican Caucus explicitly warning against it.

The action was quickly challenged in court and the Racing Commission lost. Their strategy to skirt the law on gambling and bring slot machines to Texas was ruled illegal. The open defiance sparked the ire of lawmakers who have given the rogue agency scating rebukes in recent weeks.

State Sen. Jane Nelson, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, has aggressively criticized the arrogance and outright defiance of racing commissioners, zero-ing out the Commission in the Senate’s draft budget.

Seliger’s connection to the racing industry and interest in the legislation is unclear. The West Texas Senator has worked closely with Texas House Speaker Joe Straus –whose family owns horse racing tracks – on legislation targeting the free speech of conservative groups and efforts to curtail scrutiny of the University of Texas at Austin by Regent Wallace Hall.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.