National HBPA Has NTRA Membership Plan

The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association is moving ahead with plans to implement a lump-sum payment that would reduce its annual National Thoroughbred Racing Association membership dues by about 50% but almost triple the number of NTRA-member HBPA affiliates.

Currently, the National HBPA has 11 affiliates that had committed to pay individual NTRA membership dues valued at a total of $1.6 million for this year. Under the new NTRA membership dues structure, the National HBPA would pay $800,000 a year beginning in 2007, and all of the organization's about 30 affiliates would be members.

National HBPA interim president Joe Santanna, during a July 14 meeting of the group's NTRA Task Force in Minneapolis, said 10 of the 11 affiliates that are NTRA members have agreed to carry the burden while a formula is devised for payment by all National HBPA affiliates. Santanna, who represents the National HBPA on the NTRA board of directors, said the NTRA is asking for a two-year commitment for 2007-08.

The NTRA is currently negotiating with Breeders' Cup on whether the two organizations should continue their joint operating agreement beyond this year. They are said to be considering a structure whereby the two would have one chief executive officer, but each would have a chief operating officer in an effort to maintain some independence.

Many NTRA members are awaiting a decision on the joint operating agreement; the Breeders' Cup and NTRA boards plan to meet at the end of July.

The task force meeting wasn't without debate, though most affiliates remain committed to the NTRA. Louisiana HBPA president Sean Alfortish acknowledged NTRA-member benefits of lobbying and group purchasing but suggested the National HBPA form its own programs geared toward the horsemen's agenda.

"Why is it this organization feels it needs to be a member of the NTRA?" Alfortish said. "If we're able to raise NTRA dues of almost $1 million, why can't this organization have its own lobbyists to handle this and put forth our agenda, not a mutual agenda that benefits tracks? With $2 million, this organization could be more powerful than it has ever been."

Kentucky HBPA president Susan Bunning acknowledged the organization clashed with the NTRA early on, particularly in the area of medication, but that communication has improved. She also said the Kentucky HBPA couldn't afford the type of representation the NTRA provides in Washington, D.C.

"One major benefit is the $1-million (political action committee)," Santanna said. "When things need to be done in Washington, you may get a meeting but, if you don't show other forms of support, the meeting may be very short. Having a seat on the NTRA board has intrinsic value I couldn't even associate with a dollar figure."

The Louisiana HBPA last year committed to join the NTRA, but its status is up in the air. Alfortish said the organization signed a check and joined, but was subsequently told it hadn't met its dues requirement. Based on reports from NTRA officials, there was some confusion over how much the Louisiana HBPA would pay because of ongoing discussions at the National HBPA over a new dues structure that has yet to be implemented.

NTRA dues for 2006 would be $255,000 for the Louisiana HBPA, but drop to $138,000 next year. Each of the affiliates that have been members would see a 46% drop in NTRA dues next year.

Santanna said the National HBPA hopes to have an affiliate-payment structure in place by the time the National HBPA executive committee meets in October.