Mixed Bag for California Legislation

California Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation authorizing the California Horse Racing Board to enter into an interstate compact for owners license but vetoed a bill that would have permitted racetracks and owners to lower takeout on betting handle.

Senate Bill 95, sponsored by Edward Vincent of Inglewood, was similar to the interstate licensing legislation that Davis vetoed in 2000. John Van de Kamp, president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, said he was perplexed by the governor's veto last year.

"I don't think his staff understood the bill," Van de Kamp said.

The bill allows California to join the growing number of states working with the National Racing Compact, an interstate government entity that offers a national license for owners.

In a statement, Davis said he vetoed the bill to lower takeout because he felt it was not "good public policy." Sponsored by Mark Wyland of Escondido, Assembly Bill 1186 would have given tracks and horsemen flexibility on takeout but reductions would only have affected commissions and purses -- not taxes.

"Additionally, this measure would promote an activity that could have a potential for a negative impact on the horse racing industry," Davis said. "Many people, including breeders, depend on a healthy horse racing industry. I would be open, however, to any changes to existing statutory formulas that the California Horse Racing Board recommends. I note that the board is opposed to this measure."

Davis did sign Assembly Bill 1093, which principally deals with the hearing process and potential penalties for medication violations. One aspect of the bill would eliminate stewards' hearings in charges involving Class 1, 2, or 3 drugs and send the cases directly to administrative law judges. It mandates that hearings be held within 90 days.

The measure also increases the potential fines for violation, and strikes language from the racing law that would automatically impose a lifetime ban on licensees guilty of a third Class 1 or 2 drug violation. New language said a third violation "may" result in permanent revocation of a license.