Federal Bill To Replace HISA Reportedly In Pipeline

By T. D. Thornton

A federal bill aimed at replacing the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) with a regulatory system modeled around an interstate compact is reportedly in the pipeline.

The president of the United States Trotting Association (USTA), Russell Williams, disclosed the news about the pending legislation Mar. 21 during a special meeting of the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission (PHRC).

Williams addressed the PHRC Tuesday just prior to the board voting in favor of entering into three nine-month agreements with the HISA Authority that pertain to the Racetrack Safety Program, the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit (HIWU), and the Laboratory Services Agreement.

Williams was urging the board to consider future implications prior to taking its vote, and one of the issues he brought up was the looming potential for a replacement regulatory structure.

“It’s not just a possibility out there. It should be happening in the near future,” Williams said.

“There is legislation about to be introduced in Congress [and] the primary sponsor of this legislation has been talking with us,” Williams said. He did not disclose who that senator or congressman is.

“We provided him with a draft,” Williams continued. “The draft came from the [North American Association of] Racetrack Veterinarians, the HBPA, and the USTA. And it’s already been through legislative services, [which has] put it in Congressional format, and as soon as the primary sponsor has his team put together, the bill will be introduced.

“This bill is a state-administered program,” Williams said. “So states would form an interstate compact. They would use state authorities, state experience and state funding, and save millions of dollars over the HISA structure.

“The legislation is health- and safety-focused,” Williams said. “It provides all of the same benefits to the racing industry that HISA does. It is science-based, and this is one of the problems we’ve had historically with the approach of HISA; it’s in the HISA statute, the arbitrary nature of the regulatory approaches in words and statute, the Lasix ban.”

Williams said that the new legislation would be underpinned by “state administration, a science basis for making policy decisions, and a funding model that can be afforded by the racing industry.”

TDN could not independently confirm the involvement of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA) with the pending legislation. A phone message left for the NHBPA’s chief executive officer, Eric Hamelback, did not yield a return call prior to deadline for this story.