Most US commissions believe Congress can and should make HISA work better

Lexington, KY — The Board and US members of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) met Thursday (May 12) to discuss the implementation of the HISA Act and most are saying that “technical corrections” to the federal statute could better facilitate the intent of Congress that the Authority work in partnership with states to implement a uniform and effective equine welfare, anti-doping and medication control program for Thoroughbred racing.

Due to resource and statutory limitations in many states and the fact that HISA’s board and committees operate behind closed doors and have not adopted accountability policies normally associated with the use of state funds and resources the desired HISA-State partnerships are harder to achieve, if not impossible in some places.

Twenty-two states have told the Authority that it will be impossible for them to remit or collect monies to pay the HISA assessments and more states than not are finding it difficult — if not impossible — to agree to do HISA’s racetrack safety work for them in time for the July 1 effective day.

As such, many commissions are concerned that the Authority is not ready to take over this responsibility by the fast approaching deadline. Many believe horses could be at risk unless the effective date of the HISA Act were pushed back by Congress. The challenge of recruiting large animal veterinarians to perform regulatory functions has long been a challenge for commissions in some states and shifting responsibility to racetracks or HISA is not going to alleviate that.

“The good news is that much of this program is already in place in many states and the commissions will probably continue everything they have been doing, at least for a while. In those states where HISA believes more should be done, they can still do that but that may have to be totally up to them,” ARCI President Ed Martin said.

Martin said one commission executive director from a major racing state summed up the HISA dilemma in these terms: “Do you mean to tell me HISA wants us to pay them and then we agree to do all the work for them? On what planet does that make any sense?”

In some states, senior officials above the racing commission are asking what the incentive is for a state to continue doing certain things when Congress has put the entire responsibility in the hands of the HISA Authority.

Some states, like California, Maryland, and Kentucky, believe they can make the Act work without technical changes or a delayed implementation. Others are trying but are unsure. A majority of states believe Congress should make technical corrections that would make it easier for HISA to partner with the states and avoid the loss of existing state appropriations.

“It’s important they we all get this right,” Martin said. “Nobody’s going to blame anybody if they admit they need more time like they did on the anti-doping and medication control program.

“It would not hurt this industry if Congress pulled representatives of the tracks, horsemen, states, and FTC into a room to roll up their sleeves on what changes might make this all easier on HISA and the industry.”

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