Coming Soon: You May Need To Register With HISA As July 1 Deadline Approaches - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Coming Soon: You May Need To Register With HISA As July 1 Deadline Approaches

Attendees of the annual convention for the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) last week had a lot of questions for the new national authority that is set to begin its regulatory takeover. On the convention's first day, Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority CEO Lisa Lazarus gave commissioners a few more details about what to expect on July 1, including a phase-in of the racetrack safety accreditation program as well as more immediate rule changes, including some impacting crop use.

On the conference's second day, commissioners heard from attorneys and technology experts to field questions about what to expect.

Attorneys have voiced concern or confusion about how transparent the new agency will actually be, and as with many things regarding HISA, no one is totally sure yet whose stance is correct. Thus far, HISA has asserted that it does not fall under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a 1972 law that requires certain committees publish notice of upcoming meetings and open those meetings to the general public. Some attorneys read the Federal Advisory Committee Act as having a narrow scope in terms of the types of bodies it may apply to, and it's not clear whether HSIA could be one of them. This could also exempt HISA from open records act requests.

Ed Martin, president and CEO of ARCI, said that the organization had formally encouraged HISA to consider writing open records requirements into its code. Additionally, Martin expressed frustration with what he characterized as poor communication from HISA to racing commissioners. Martin says commissioners were not given a heads-up when HISA determined it would not be positioned to take over drug testing responsibilities on July 1 of this year, and found out only when a public announcement was made.

“That was kind of a surprise for many of the jurisdictions because there was no advance warning or discussion,” Martin said.

Martin urged that open communication, both with the public and with key members of the industry, would be the best path forward for the new authority as it begins the complex process of taking over racing regulation.

Some attendees had questions about how the process of appealing a stewards' ruling would change under the new authority. John Roach, interim HISA general counsel, explained that there would still be layers of appeals possible under the new system. Using a whip rule violation as an example, Roach said the new system would have the stewards making a ruling, and if the rider appeals, that would go through a layer of review at the Authority. If the Covered Person wants to appeal HISA's decision on the rule violation, they could request a Federal Trade Commission administrative law judge hear an appeal, which the FTC does not have to grant. If an FTC administrative law judge does hear the appeal and upholds the stewards' ruling, the Covered Person then would go on to federal court.

It's not clear how the timeline for this appeals process would compare to the existing system, in which a licensee appeals a stewards' decision to the state racing commission, then to local court, then to state appeals court and state supreme court before moving on to the U.S. Supreme Court if applicable. (Relatively few appeals cases of suspensions or other racing regulation violations are heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.)

In another presentation, HISA technology director Steve Keech walked the audience through a demonstration of the registration process for HISA. Anyone who's considered a Covered Person under the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will be required to register with the new authority. This includes most people who are currently licensed by state racing commissions, with the exception of people who do not directly participate in racing, like food vendors or cleaning staff, etc.

There will be no fee to register with HISA. Registration will allow the authority to track continuing education credit, compile licensing and regulatory action information, and more.

Users will be asked to enter their existing state license information into HISA's registration portal. The HISA system has been integrated with state license databases, Equibase, ARCI, and others to scrape all license information for a given person or horse and compile it into one place. The system will use third party address verification systems to ensure contact information entered is accurate, based on that person's previous known locations.

The registration process is available in both English and Spanish, and Keech said he has been working with jockeys from various Central and South American countries to be sure the Spanish language version is appropriate for all dialects so the instructions are as clear as possible.

Horses will also need to be registered, which will require the Responsible Person for that horse (usually, though not always, the trainer) entering the horse's vaccine history and uploading health paperwork into the system, along with noting the horse's location. Location information will need to be updated anytime the horse moves from one place to another. Keech said his team is still working on how to import large batches of horse registration information for trainers with large barns who may have some records already stored in The Jockey Club's registration systems or in Equibase.

It's not yet clear how the claim or sale of horses will work in this system, or what information will be transferred between Responsible Persons.

It's also unclear how HISA or other authorities will enforce the requirement that all Covered Persons under the new law actually complete the registration process. As several commission staffers pointed out in the question and answer portion of the presentation, it's already a battle to get some stable staff licensed with the state, and it's not uncommon to discover barns have employees who are not licensed.

Keech is hopeful, however, that the HISA system, which will integrate information from databases that are currently separate, may open up new possibilities to using that data in a productive way. Veterinarians, for example, will be required to enter information about their veterinary as well as their racing licenses into the database, which could help states hunt for qualified practitioners with the right licensing if they find themselves in the midst of a veterinarian shortage. It will also make it easier for authorities to see a given person's license history in aggregate, as well as a horse's veterinarian's list history across jurisdictions.

The registration system is on target to launch July 1, and on that date, the authority's rules state that all Covered Persons must be registered with HISA. The system is not yet accessible to the public.

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