Controversy over Houston Rodeo

February 24, 2009 5:14:31 PM PST
Eyewitness News has learned a Houston state lawmaker is filing a bill and hoping to change things at the rodeo. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

State Senator Mario Gallegos said he's frustrated because a group of local elected officials have been meeting with Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo officials for over a year and they are unhappy with the rodeo's response. Now the senator is planning to file a bill.

At this year's rodeo round up, downtown Houston was filled with people who are eager for this year's to get underway. Sen. Gallegos said he's simply not satisfied with the way the rodeo is run.

"We plan to file a bill that deals with diversity and more of the open records," said Sen. Gallegos.

This Friday, Sen. Gallegos will file a bill which will in part: require non-profits to appoint a board of directors that reflect the diversity of its constituents, answer fully to all open records requests, and make reasonable efforts to increase minority participation in contracts.

"I'm glad to hear that Sen. Gallegos is taking formal action, i.e. a bill, to try to get it where we know what the rodeo is doing with their money," said Houston City Council Member Jolanda Jones.

The live stock show's Chief Operating Officer Leroy Shafer said the bill is unnecessary because the rodeo is very open.

"The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo as far as transparency is concerned has complied with all rules and regulations of the IRS," said Shafer.

Shafer said it even used a competitive process to select well known lobbyist Robert Miller to fight any potential legislation.

"If in fact the legislation is something that would adversely affect the HLSR, then absolutely we want people involved that can guide us through this process," said Shafer.

The bill would only apply to non-profits located in a county with more than 3.3 million people, and does business with a local government like Harris County.

Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, who has actively participated in meetings with the rodeo, said the bill isn't aimed to harm anyone, rather it's simply meant to make the community's biggest charitable organization more diverse and transparent.

"Where do we go from announcing that you get $100 million of the rodeo, through its run, but there's only about $20 million in scholarships. Where does the rest of the $80 million go to?" asked Garcia.

Sen. Gallegos said he plans to file the bill Friday morning and will then hold a news conference in Houston. The HLSR said it's looking forward to reading the entire contents of the bill, so it can respond more fully.

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