Webb: Legislators had no warning on medication reform vote
Turns out the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and supporters of medication regulation reform in Kentucky weren't the only ones blind-sided on Monday when the state legislature's Licensing and Occupations Committee rejected rules designed to change how Lasix is administered on race-day, eliminate the use of adjunct bleeder medication, and lower the permitted threshold for phenylbutazone. Members of the committee were blind-sided, too, since a vote on the issue was not on the agenda for the meeting.
The proposed rules changes, developed by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission earlier this year, were rejected by a 19-1 vote of the legislative committee, with four members not voting. Republican Sen. Damon Thayer was the only member to support the rules changes.
The maneuver to bring the regulations up for a surprise vote was orchestrated by the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. The committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Dennis Keene, met recently with representatives of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and said he saw no problems with the regulations, sources told the Paulick Report.
Democratic Sen. Robin Webb, a horse owner and member of the Horse Farming Subcommittee and Agriculture Committee representing Kentucky's 18th district, said members of the Licensing and Occupations Committee were not told in advance the issue would be discussed at Monday's meeting.
In a letter responding to a statement from The Jockey Club and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, Webb, who made the motion to reject the new regulations, said the language and process surrounding the issue both were “deficient.”
Webb wrote: “Since I made the motion to deem the regulation deficient, I will respond.
“For the record, I also deem the process deficient. The regulation is important on many levels, I agree. It is so important that I would have liked to have known that same was on the agenda, that it was to be voted on and further, that I would have time to read it, digest it, hear testimony from both sides of the issue and make an informed decision on same. I know that my colleagues felt the same way, the number of pass votes and comments certainly lend credence to my position.
“I, like several other members, have the advantage of being a horse owner, breeder, and exhibitor. Even though I work in a non-racing breed, I have an industry perspective. I also am a lawyer, and I feel that gives me insight into interpretation and ultimate application of statutes and regulations. The members who are not involved in the industry, as some stated, were overwhelmed with the medical and technical information presented that day on an item that was not on the agenda.
“The KRC, Governor's office, or any equine organization, made no attempt to communicate with this committee member regarding this regulation prior to its non-agenda presentation for a vote. The topic has not been vetted in our active Interim Agriculture Committee, and our Sub-Committee on Horse Farming has not even met regularly to discuss the issues of the day, including this one. These are both committees that have subject matter jurisdiction pertaining to the horse industry.
“We are not a bureaucracy nor are we appointed, we are elected policy makers that must answer to our constituents and in so doing an informed, deliberate decision is required, or at a minimum preferred. Perhaps in the future, there will be better communication with the legislature on issues of import.
“I personally, had trouble with some language, that even the KRC agreed could have been drafted in a manner more consistent with the testimonial intent. Further, in this political climate and animal rights agenda driven policy that affects agriculture, I make no apology in my diligence to read every statute and regulation, study and interpret data that is compiled and presented, question every agency and commission and delve into the background of every presenter/expert that presents or submits information on an issue that affects agriculture, and especially the horse industry.
“I appreciate your organizations and what they do.”
Senator Robin Webb
Senate District 18
Member Agriculture Committee
Member Licensing and Occupations Committee
Member Horse Farming Sub-Committee