Introduced on Jan. 24, Washington House Bill (HB)1529 would provide supplementary funding to support horse racing and the recreational use of horses in Washington state. Sponsored with bipartisan support from Chris Stearns (D)*, Steve Bergquist (D), Shelley Kloba (D), Strom Peterson (D), Marcus Riccelli (D), Eric Robertson (R), Joe Schmick (R), Drew Stokesbary (R), the bill has been referred to the Appropriations committee on Jan. 24.
HB 1529 would place up to $6 million annually into a new Washington Equine Industry Reinvestment account. This would be in addition to the funding that is already provided by taxes on equine products and services.
Funds in the account can only be spent to provide assistance to legalized horse racing and the recreational use of horses in Washington State. Funds could be used to cover operating costs of the State Horse Racing Commission. The Commission’s budget is between $1.2 and 1.5 million dollars paid by the racing industry.
The remaining funds would be distributed as follows:
- 65 percent to class 1 racing associations (currently the only class 1 racing in Washington is at Emerald Downs). The track would be able to use funds to cover expenses involved with recruitment programs, equine health and safety programs, research, track surface improvements and the employment of long-term maintenance, veterinary staff, security, on-duty paramedics, EMTs, starting gate personnel and outriders
- 5 percent to the state’s Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association to assist with low-fee medical and dental care, education and recreation programs, and assistance for labor and industries claim monitoring programs.
- 10 percent to support nonprofit class C race meets
- 10 percent to supplement Washington-bred horses and breeders
- 10 percent to support equine activities in the form of grants to 4-H clubs, schools with riding or equestrian programs, county fairs, rodeos or groups that build and/or maintain riding trails. Funds could also be disseminated to equine adoption programs and to therapy programs that utilize horses.
A companion bill, Senate Bill 5598, was introduced in the Washington Senate and has been referred to the Senate Business, Financial Services, Gaming and Trade Committee for review. It is identical to HB 1529. SB5598 was introduced by nine Senators: Republicans Phil Fortunato, Mark Schoesler, Jeff Wilson and Mike Padden along with Democrats Mark Mullet, Joe Nguyen, Karen Keiser, Claudia Kauffman and Sam Hunt.
As both bills are identical, supporters are hopeful it will pass. A similar bill with bipartisan support failed to be voted on in the Senate last year, but its believed that the concerns over language have been remedied.
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