Pennsylvania House Bill 941, which provides horsemen with unprecedented regulatory powers under a new State Horse Racing Commission, was approved by a 48-0 vote in the state Senate on Feb. 10 and awaits the signature of Gov. Tom Wolf.
Funding for the new commission and its related costs comes from authorization of a transfer of funds from the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund (funded by slot machines) to the State Racing Fund (funded by revenue from declining pari-mutuel handle).
The new commission would consist of nine members: five appointed by the governor, including one representative of horsemen and one representative of breeders for both the Thoroughbred and Standardbred industries. The governor's fifth appointee would be a non-horseman veterinarian. Four additional commissioners are to be appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate.
The horsemen and breeders' representatives would be selected from a list of 10 prospective candidates provided by each group.
Within the commission would be an Office of Horse Racing, with separate bureaus for Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, each led by a director who must have the approval of the horsemen and breeders' representatives on the commission before being hired.
The horsemen and breeders' representatives would also have veto power on the adoption of regulations, including medication rules, and on approval or denial of licenses to operate race meetings.
Michael Rader, executive director of the Senate Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee, told the Observer-Reporter of Washington County it is the first change to the State Racing Fund in more than 30 years. With declining handle, the current racing commission has been strapped for revenue to operate and conduct drug testing.
“We were 30 years behind schedule from a regulation standpoint,” said Rader, who told the newspaper “we have every indication that (Wolf) plans to sign this.”
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