- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2007

RICHMOND (AP) — A proposal to raise money for transportation by allowing gamblers to bet on prerecorded horse races passed out of a Senate committee yesterday, a day after the House killed similar legislation.

Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr.’s bill differs from the one rejected in the House, in that it would dedicate 50 percent of the proceeds to transportation, 1 percent to the localities where off-track betting parlors are located, one-half percent to tourism and 44 percent to Colonial Downs, which operates the state’s only horse racing track and its nine satellite facilities. The remaining 3 percent would go to the horsemen.

“I’m not a gambler,” the James City Republican said. “I’m just a guy in search of money for transportation.”

A study commissioned by Colonial Downs estimated that the measure would raise $660 million a year by allowing gamblers to wager on prerecorded races shown on terminals. Of that, about $300 million would go to transportation and $1 million each to the localities where off-track betting parlors are located.

Mr. Norment said he acknowledges it will be difficult to round up the necessary 21 votes to get the proposal out of the Senate and almost impossible to persuade the conservative House to approve it, but he thinks the 52 percent share the state would receive for transportation, tourism and local governments will help. The House plan directed 49 percent of proceeds to transportation.

“When you’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars, 3 points is a lot of money,” he said.

Mr. Norment is one of the architects of a compromise transportation plan that is working its way through the Senate. A rival plan is expected to be introduced soon. Legislators spent nine months last year trying to come up with a plan to rescue the state’s roads and rails from disrepair, to no avail. But they feel the pressure to get something done this year because all 140 delegates and senators are up for election.

Mr. Norment said the revenue from the prerecorded racing machines would provide a much-needed boost to any transportation plan.

m Slavery apology

The Virginia General Assembly took the first step yesterday toward expressing “profound regret” for the state’s role in slavery.

The House Rules Committee unanimously endorsed a revised version of Delegate A. Donald McEachin’s slavery apology resolution. A vote by the full House of Delegates is expected early next week. Also, a resolution identical to Mr. McEachin’s original is pending in a Senate committee.

Among those voting for the measure was Delegate Frank D. Hargrove Sr., who angered black leaders two weeks ago by saying “black citizens should get over” slavery. Mr. Hargrove, Hanover Republican, said he could support the revised resolution because it expresses regret “without apologizing for anything.”

m Notifying parents

Schools would have to notify parents if their child is removed from class for two consecutive days for behavioral or other problems under legislation that passed out of a House committee yesterday.

Several lawmakers and school lobbyists argued that similar requirements already exist for special-needs students, but the bill’s sponsor, Delegate M. Kirkland Cox, Colonial Heights Republican, said the legislation applies to all students.

The House Committee on Education voted 9-3 in favor of the bill.

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