Kentucky Panel Discusses Workers' Comp

A governor-appointed panel to study and resolve jockey insurance issues in Kentucky met for the first time June 27 to begin work on a statewide workers' compensation recommendation for lawmakers.

Tom Ludt, a member of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, chairs the 11-member panel that includes representatives from the General Assembly, horsemen's organizations, a jockeys' organization, and racetracks.

Ludt, who also chaired the KHRA committee which attempted to get a workers' comp package through the 2005 legislative session but ran out of time, said the meeting was held to educate and introduce panel members. However, some consensus was achieved.

"We agreed that we are going to address this from a workers' compensation standpoint," Ludt said. "We're somewhat organizing what the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority had done, but now we have more time."

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher directed the group to issue a report with recommendations to his office by Sept. 1.

An open meeting has been scheduled July 14 to hear opinions and suggestions from varied industry parties. The panel will then meet July 20 to begin formulating an agenda.

"What we're going to try to do in the next couple of weeks is get all this information in front of the committee, listen to the public, and then hopefully quickly digest all of that to come up with a recommendation," Ludt said. "Then, most importantly, we will begin debating on how we're going to fund it. Of course, how to fund it is still going to be the biggest issue."

Ludt said the panel would examine worker's comp programs in other states, but many opinions expressed at the June 27 meeting suggested following New York's model, in which jockeys are considered employees of the workers' comp fund.

In keeping with Fletcher's wishes, the panel will draft a recommendation that includes coverage for apprentice jockeys and exercise riders. At the meeting, Bill Napier of the Standardbred industry also asked that harness drivers be included.

Members of the blue ribbon panel are Sen. Gary Tapp; Rep. Jim Bruce; David Switzer of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders; Susan Bunning of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association; Darrell Haire of the Jockeys' Guild; Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs; Harvie Wilkinson, vice president of Keeneland; William Emrick, executive director of the Office of Workers' Claims; Jim Gallagher, executive director of the KHRA; and LaJuana Wilcher, secretary of the state Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet.