In an effort to protect horses and jockeys amid the recent spate of racing horse deaths at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., state Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced) on Thursday announced plans for a thorough, joint oversight hearing on horse racing safety. The duo also announced the introduction of new legislation to authorize the California Horse Racing Board to promptly suspend racing if dangerous conditions exist.
The joint oversight hearing is expected to take place next month and will include testimony from expert witnesses highlighting the steps the industry and regulators have already taken to improve safety as well as exploring areas where more needs to be done. Dodd and Gray met with Chuck Winner, chairman of the California Horse Racing Board, several weeks ago to discuss steps the state could take to improve safety, including empowering the board to take emergency action.
“This common sense bill is one part of the solution, and Chairman Gray and I will be convening a hearing to determine whether there are additional steps the industry or the state should take to enhance safety,” said Sen. Dodd. “It's clear that state regulators need the power to act swiftly and decisively when exigent safety concerns arise.”
“Both Sen. Dodd and I believe that California's horse racing industry must be willing to accept and adopt forward thinking solutions to address long-standing issues and debates,” said Assemblymember Gray. “This hearing will give the committees an opportunity to conduct a thorough review of the industry's safety track record, and highlight new and potentially necessary reforms to improve safe racing conditions.”
Senate Bill 469 would allow racing board directors to convene an emergency meeting to consider temporary track closure when a situation emerges requiring prompt action. The usual 10-day meeting notice would be waived, but the board would still be required to notice the emergency meeting to the media and public.
SB 469, which is scheduled for its first hearing on April 23, is also co-authored by Sen. Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) and Assemblymembers Ed Chau (D-Arcadia), whose districts include Santa Anita.
“The unfortunate deaths of 23 horses in Santa Anita Park, which is located in my district, has been alarming and demands our most urgent attention,” Assemblymember Chau said. “It brings to mind the question on why we are not suspending horse racing when emergency action is necessary. This legislation will empower the board to take action more swiftly in order to protect the welfare of both horses and riders, and is an important step in a series of ongoing reforms.”
“I have joined as principal co-author of SB 469 because I believe that the safety of the horses and the jockeys is a top priority,” Sen. Rubio said. “In doing so, I request that my colleagues join me in moving forward by having a full and open dialogue with all stakeholders. We need to ensure we don't implement legislation that causes unintended consequences, such as unnecessarily impacting the livelihood of thousands of workers and their families throughout the San Gabriel Valley.”
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