Legislation governing racehorse medication policy unanimously passed the Florida Senate Regulated Industries Committee Feb. 18 and was reported favorably to the full Senate.
Introduced by Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, the bill would bring Florida racing in line with the National Uniform Medication Program. The effort by Florida stakeholders to update equine medication regulations began in earnest in 2014.
No one objected to the bill, which has broad support among horsemen and Thoroughbred racetracks, Latvala said. The senator also noted it's important to bring Florida's equine medication rules up to speed with those states that have adopted all or parts of the National Uniform Medication Program.
Dr. Dionne Benson, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, was on hand to answer questions, but there were no questions. Seven individuals from the equine industry waived comments and issued their support for the bill.
The bill calls for adoption of the Controlled Therapeutic Medication Schedule, which establishes conditions of use and maximum concentrations for commonly used therapeutic drugs approved by the Association of Racing Commissioners International. There currently are 26 substances on the list.
The legislation includes a provision for the RCI drug classification system and its related penalties.
Furosemide, the anti-bleeding medication also known as Salix or Lasix, would be the only medication permitted within 24 hours of a race but not within four hours of a race, according to the legislation. The language removes permission to use prednisolone sodium succinate, a synthetic corticosteroid sold as Solu-Delta-Cortef, on race day.
Florida is the only state that permits use of the drug on race day.
Finally, the bill requires the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to require its laboratory and any independent labs to participate in an external quality assurance program designed to assess testing proficiency.
The committee adopted three amendments that mainly clarify language; for instance, medication and drug-testing policies for racing Greyhounds will remain in their current form.
Latvala said there has been talk of attaching non-medication provisions to the legislation, perhaps in the House of Representatives. He said he has no intention of allowing that to happen as it moves through the legislature.
"I will tell you this bill is going out of this legislature as a free-standing bill," Latvala said. "I will withdraw it if gaming gets involved."
Florida lawmakers continue to study and debate an expansion of gaming in the state. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee, after action on the medication legislation, held an informational hearing on Indian gaming in the state.