By Tom Rooney, NTRA — Many of you may have seen that last week a bill was introduced in Congress to repeal the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, better known as HISA. I want to set the record straight as to what this legislation does or doesn’t do, assure you that the bill isn’t going anywhere in Congress, and conclude that it stands no chance of becoming law.
First things first – it’s important to remember that any member of Congress can introduce a bill. They write the language, file the bill, and voila it’s been introduced. Just in the 118th Congress, which began in the beginning of 2023, more than 10,000 bills have been introduced. Of those more than 10,000 bills, only 14 have become law. It’s important to have that perspective to truly understand why the likelihood of this bill ever becoming law is next to nothing.
Now let’s get to this particular bill. Introduced by Congressman Higgins from Louisiana, the Racehorse Health and Safety Act (RHSA) has just one cosponsor. In order for any bill to become law, it needs a lot of support, support that comes in the form of “cosponsors.” HISA had more than 260 cosponsors and was supported by both Republicans and Democrats. RHSA only has one, and both are Republicans. Without bipartisan support and many cosponsors, bills don’t go anywhere in Congress.
Now to the lack of merits of the legislation. The very same people who spent years and millions of dollars fighting in Congress and in the courts against uniform safety standards and a unified regulator would now have us believe that they are actually for uniform safety standards and a unified regulator. The goal of RHSA is to repeal HISA, return the industry to the state-by-state patchwork regulatory system, and then create a unified regulator and unified safety standards. You read that correctly – this bill suggests rolling back all the work HISA has done, turn the industry back over to the states, and then create its own regulatory body and rules. Instead of trying to work with HISA, within the scope of the law, HISA’s detractors are simply wasting everyone’s time.
Congressman Higgins and the detractors of HISA know that it would take years to slog through the cumbersome process of passing enabling legislation in nearly three dozen racing states to establish RHSA. Repealing HISA to then enact RHSA with the consent of 38 states would be similar to the time-consuming process of amending the Constitution, which has only happened 27 times in more than 200 years. This bill is an untenable attempt to turn back the clock on track safety and anti-doping rules – which is precisely why there is so little support in Washington for the HISA repeal bill.
As I’ve said for months, these detractors need to put an end to their arguments. It is crucial that the whole of the Thoroughbred industry comes together for the betterment of our sport. In these challenging times, we must rally around HISA to ensure the highest standards of integrity and safety are upheld. The Racehorse Health and Safety Act would set the industry back when we should be setting aside our differences and working collaboratively towards a brighter, safer future for Thoroughbred racing under the guidance of HISA which is already the law of the land. Together, we can safeguard the integrity and longevity of this beloved sport.
Tom Rooney is the President and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA). He formerly served in the U.S. House of Representatives for five terms, representing the state of Florida.