NM governor signs horse racing crackdown bills

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Associated Press

Posted on April 2, 2013 at 8:02 PM

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico racing regulators will be able to test more horses for illegal drugs and can impose tougher sanctions for violations under legislation Gov. Susana Martinez signed into law Tuesday.

One new law provides the State Racing Commission with an earmarked source of money — about $700,000 a year — for testing race horses. That's more than twice what the regulatory agency currently spends, according to Vince Mares, the commission's executive director.

The money will come from an existing tax on pari-mutuel wagering at horse racing tracks.

Another law will allow the commission to impose penalties of up to $100,000, or the amount of a horse's winnings, whichever is greater, for violations of the state's racing rules, including those against the use of performance enhancing drugs. Civil penalties currently are limited to $10,000 for each violation.

The laws take effect June 14.

"We owe it to owners, jockeys, horses and fans alike to ensure that everyone in the industry conducts themselves with integrity," Martinez said in a statement after signing the legislation in Las Cruces. "Anyone who endangers a horse or a jockey should face stiff penalties."

The regulatory changes came after a New York Times investigation last year highlighted drug use in the horse racing industry as well as horse deaths and jockey injuries at tracks across the nation, including in New Mexico.

The commission last year adopted new standards governing the drugs that can be administered to horses. One of the measures signed by the governor will ensure that those standards remain tied to national guidelines set by The Association of Racing Commissioners International and will require use of testing labs that meet the association's guidelines.

By imposing those requirements in state law, Mares said, New Mexico's racing regulators can't retreat from those in the future.

"We want to make sure the Racing Commission remains accountable to stay within the high standards of the industry as far as testing," said Mares.

The commission spends an average of about $300,000 a year on testing, he said. With additional money, regulators will test more horses in each race and will do out-of-competition testing in which horses are tested weeks ahead of a race to try to ensure that drugs weren't administered during training. The commission also will be able to pay for necropsies of horses that are fatally injured in races to determine whether illegal drugs played a role in the animal's death.

Also signed into law Tuesday by the governor were measures to:

—Require the same insurance coverage of medical services offered through a telemedicine system as provided for face-to-face consultations with health care professionals.

—Allow public money, but not aid distributed through the state's school funding formula, to be used by the New Mexico School for the Arts for student room and board costs and outreach activities. The school is a statewide publicly financed residential charter school that opened its doors in 2010, offering students training in dance, theater, music and visual arts. State law initially required scholarships to be made available from private fundraising to help financially needy students cover room and board expenses.

—Move up election year filing deadlines in February and March for candidates for congressional, statewide, legislative and other offices. Supporters say the change will provide extra time for courts to resolve lawsuits that challenge whether candidates are qualified to appear on the June primary election. The state Supreme Court in 2012 had to resolve several candidate lawsuits as a deadline loomed for sending primary election ballots overseas voters.

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Follow Barry Massey at https://twitter.com/bmasseyAP .

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