Five U.S. Senators joined five Congressmen yesterday strongly urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to disapprove the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) proposed Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program Rule that the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (Authority) recently resubmitted. The bipartisan group of lawmakers stated the disapproval from the FTC was necessary to “avoid continued industry-wide confusion and potential inequitable enforcement.”
The FTC already had disapproved the medication control rule on December 12, 2022, until “the legal uncertainty regarding the Act’s constitutionality comes to be resolved,” the commission wrote.
The bicameral letter also strongly encouraged the FTC to clarify that the formerly approved racetrack safety rules are unenforceable at this time because HISA was declared unconstitutional by a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in November.
Signing the letter were Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Kennedy (R-LA), and Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Congressmen Lance Gooden (R-TX), Tom Cole (R- OK), Jake Ellzey (R-TX), Vincente Gonzalez (D-TX), and Andy Biggs (R-AZ).
“I applaud Senator Grassley, Representative Gooden and all their co-signers for asking the FTC to state the obvious: HISA is unconstitutional; therefore, its rules cannot be enforced,” said Eric Hamelback, CEO of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. “Furthermore, the corporation under HISA is still enforcing the racetrack safety rules, even though, as the Congressmen point out, everyone agrees they were submitted and approved in accordance with a law that was ruled unconstitutional.
“The sheer fact that an amendment was written to ‘fix’ HISA proves without a shadow of doubt that the supporters of HISA supported an unconstitutional bill. This obvious disregard for the law is needlessly causing even more confusion. The wise thing for the HISA corporation to do is to take a self-imposed pause and let the courts sort things out before rushing to impose its will on horsemen.”
On December 29, 2022, Congress passed a so-called “HISA fix” that tweaked the law by giving the FTC limited ability to modify Authority rules. As a result, the Authority resubmitted the medication control rules and issued a public statement saying they are hopeful and optimistic that they will be able to implement them around mid-March.
“This blatantly premature statement caused immense confusion throughout the horseracing industry, and does not take into account that the 5th Circuit’s opinion has not been overturned nor has the Court issued a new opinion,” said Dr. Doug Daniels, President and Chairman of the National HBPA. “The FTC cannot be forced into approving the ADMC based on assumptions made from HISA’s corporation.”
Horse-racing constituents applauded the Senators and Congressmen for strongly expressing their concerns to the FTC.
Said Jon Moss, Executive Director for the Iowa HBPA: “We greatly appreciate Senator Grassley for continuing his support and leading the charge for horsemen and women in Iowa as well as throughout the country.”
Amy Cook, Executive Director for the Texas Racing Commission, praised Rep. Gooden, saying, “We appreciate Rep. Gooden recognizing the wide-ranging statutory conflict that exists in Texas. It is critical for all stakeholders to continue to send the message that regulatory certainty is paramount and therefore new federal rules should not be adopted while there is ongoing litigation related to HISA’s constitutionality.”
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