Legislators Voice Opinion on Task Force Recommendations

Even though preliminary recommendations of self-regulation for the auction industry have been released by the Sales Integrity Task Force, the Kentucky legislature still has several months before it will act on them.

But a couple of key state legislators have voiced early opinions on the recommendations, which provide suggested regulatory guidelines for owner transparency, agent licensing, and medical disclosures in relation to Kentucky public horse auctions.

Democratic representative Larry Clark of Louisville, who co-sponsored the 2007 house bill that sought strict government regulation for certain auction aspects, said that while he is going to wait for the task force’s final recommendations to form a full opinion, he is for the most part unhappy with the early results.

“My position is that I am somewhat disappointed they have chosen self-compliance/self-policing,” said Clark, who is speaker pro tem in the Kentucky House. “I am concerned they didn’t go far enough.

“But I am going to wait until discussing this with the other members of the (joint) committee (on licensing and occupations) and myself, before I take any official position.”

When pressed, Clark said he thought regulatory law would be of benefit in at least some areas, including the licensing of agents.

“If we put something in statute, I think it would have more teeth, and would help make sure people abide by the law,” he said.

Republican Senate counterpart and horse industry veteran Damon Thayer of Georgetown took quite the opposite stance, praising the recommendations as a large step in the right direction.

“Big-brother government is not always the answer,” said Thayer in a phone interview from New Jersey, where he is working as a consultant for the upcoming Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Monmouth Park. “I believe the industry should be given an opportunity to enact these reforms and work with a strong dual agency bill that is already on the books.

“Every time we create a new licensing association, we create a new level of government bureaucracy that comes at a cost to the taxpayer,” he continued. “More often than not, the groups come back because they are fighting among themselves. They want to change the law and it turns into a complete waste of our time to help mediate these fights. We end up telling them, 'Go fix it yourself.' Don’t always look at government to create a solution.”

When asked, Clark said reintroducing legislation into the 2008 General Assembly is an option if the final task force recommendations don’t measure up to snuff, though he wasn’t ready to handicap the chances of it passing into law. But he did say that the February compromise leading to the tabling of the original bill and ultimate resurrection of the task force suggested industry officials thought passage of such legislation was possible.
“They were obviously concerned something was going to happen, or they wouldn’t have come to me with this and agreed to these terms,” Clark said of the compromise.

“The big thing is that we have the industry trying to do something positive, and that was my main objective. We always have the option to pass legislation. But for now, I am going to keep my powder dry and see how this thing plays out.”

Thayer believes any proposed legislation would have a difficult time obtaining approval.

“There are Democrats and Republicans in the House who oppose the bill,” he said. “And I believe it is the sense of the Senate that there is not much support for this kind of legislation, particularly in light that the Sale Integrity Task Force has met all year long, and has met back with the licensing and occupation committee regarding its work.
“I’ll work closely with my colleague, Sen. Gary Tapp, who chairs the (licensing and occupations committee), of which I am also a member, to make sure the Sales Integrity Task Force gets a full airing of its report,” he added. “I certainly don’t see myself supporting any legislation in the 2008 General Assembly.”

The task force will accept written opinions on its recommendations until Oct. 31 and will post signed comments on its Web site (www.salesintegrity.org). The task force hopes to have its recommendations finalized by early November and presented to the legislature before the Dec. 31 deadline.

The 2008 Kentucky General Assembly begins Jan. 8 and runs for 60 days, excluding holidays and weekends, through the end of March.

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