We Need Do-Over Done Right — Not HISA

Message from the National HBPA on current HISA opposition (photo above by Gwen Davis/Davis Innovation):

Help us help you: Tell Congress horse racing needs a strategic, legal alternative to HISA with all stakeholders at the table.

In the wake of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruling the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act and its resulting Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) unconstitutional, the No. 1 question we get is: What now?

We hope you find the synopsis below helpful – including what we are doing and how YOU can assist as we work for national policy that truly makes our industry better without trampling on the Constitution or forcing tracks and horsemen out of business under HISA’s crushing financial burden.

Where we stand now (legal updates at bottom)

HISA supporters are beginning to mobilize on Capitol Hill, and we are doing the same. We might not have their massive funding, but our advantage is that we are confident many more people agree with our position that HISA is fatally flawed and there’s a far better — and legal — path forward by working with ALL stakeholders, not just those with the deepest pockets.

HISA and its allies will seek a quick fix; what they are inaccurately calling a “technical corrections” bill that they will most likely try and slip into the end-of-year spending bill, better known as the Omnibus. This would follow the tactic they used to get HISA passed in the first place by sneaking it into the 2020 COVID relief bill, allowing it to pass without a single Senate committee hearing or debate.

While no text has leaked yet, we believe this “quick fix” effort is likely to make the Authority constitutional by ceding a majority of its power back to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an agency that is wholly unfamiliar with our industry. Ceding additional powers to the FTC is not the answer.

We believe this quick solution may receive significant pushback from Members of Congress, including from among Members who previously supported HISA and those who had no idea it was in the COVID bill. We need you to encourage and reinforce this pushback.

Here’s what you can do

In cooperation with the Kentucky HBPA, we have created an online advocacy campaign that automatically sends a message on this issue to your U.S. House of Representatives member and your two U.S. Senators. All you have to do is fill in your name, address, email and phone number. We do the rest! Here’s that link

If you want to send a personalized message:

Contact your U.S. Representative.

  • You can use this link to identify and send an email message to your Representative. Be sure to know your zip code’s +4 (you can look that up here). An email template is provided below. You can also call and leave a message.

Contact your U.S. Senators.

  • Here’s a link to find and contact your two U.S. Senators. You can also call and leave a message.

Here’s a template for an email message that can be copied:

“Recently, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act (passed when slipped into the year-end omnibus in 2020) is unconstitutional. I agree. HISA was created with an extremely expensive quick fix and the result has been not only a trampling on the Constitution and mass confusion, but a serious threat to the existence of smaller racetracks and a likelihood of running many racehorse owners and trainers – as well as the small businesses that depend on horsemen — out of business. This new bureaucracy’s crushing costs are being passed on to tracks and horsemen with no transparency, no meaningful oversight, and no significant representation. An industry as complex and wide-ranging as ours deserves thoughtful legislation. Rushing a “quick fix” will not correct the problems identified in the Circuit Court’s unanimous opinion. It must be done strategically and with input from the industry as a whole. Please block any effort by HISA or its supporters for another quick fix that got us in this mess in the first place. Our horsemen’s representatives want to work with ALL parties for new, sensible legislation that allows our jobs-heavy industry and related agribusiness to thrive and improve, rather than to choke from ill-advised legislation snuck through by a well-financed minority. We appreciate your support.”

We encourage horsemen to send a message to Congress, as well as to share on social media.

What a Member of Congress says

  • “The Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority failed to meet its statutory deadlines and their incompetence has created widespread confusion and problems for horsemen in my home state of Texas and across the country. Decisions impacting the horseracing industry are best made at the local level, and I am glad the 5thCircuit agreed that it is an unconstitutional governing body and has taken the first step to return this power to the states.” – Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX-05) 

Legal Updates

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

  • On November 18, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit unanimously ruled the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) unconstitutional.
  • HISA may seek an “en banc” hearing in the 5th Circuit, a request that would throw out the current decision and have all judges that sit on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to re-hear the case. This is not a very likely outcome since it must be granted by the ruling judges and the ruling judges were unanimous in their opinion.
  • The 5th Circuit’s ruling is expected to go into effect on January 10, 2023.

Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals—Oral arguments scheduled 

  • The 6thCircuit Court of Appeals (Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee) will begin hearing its HISA case on Dec. 7. The case will address both the constitutionality of HISA, as well as its potential violation of the private non-delegation doctrine. That doctrine says that Congress may not delegate governmental powers to a private entity (such as HISA).

If the 6th Circuit were to rule the Authority constitutional, the likely next step would be an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the dispute.

Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.