Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher has signed an executive order to establish a blue ribbon panel to further study workers’ compensation coverage for jockeys.
Gov. Fletcher explained how his administration consulted with the horse industry and key legislators regarding the issue. It was determined that the matter is of such magnitude and complexity that it merits a thorough examination to ensure that the proper legislation is drafted and funded correctly. For this reason, Gov. Fletcher said the short legislative session of 2005 does not provide enough time to carefully consider the issue.
“Ensuring that jockeys, apprentice jockeys and exercise riders are properly protected is not something we want to rush. We want to be confident that our decisions are in the best interest of everyone involved in the industry,” Gov. Fletcher stated.
The panel, which will be appointed by the governor, will be composed of nine members. These members will include a representative from the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority and representatives from horsemen’s and jockeys’ organizations as well as racing associations.
Injury compensation coverage for jockeys became an issue at some race tracks last fall after some riders reportedly refused to take mounts for races. Gov. Fletcher then asked the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority (KHRA) to review the issue and make a recommendation on how the state could address the need for workers’ comp coverage for those involved in horse racing who may not be entitled to it under current state law.
“I believe it would be in our best interest to make this a priority for legislation during the 2006 General Assembly, which is a 60-day session,” Gov. Fletcher said. “I have made the decision to create a blue ribbon panel to further study the issue and provide my office with recommendations.”
Tom Ludt, member of the KHRA agreed, saying “this is a complex issue that involves nearly every aspect of horse racing. I am pleased Governor Fletcher recognizes the seriousness of the issue and is willing to make it a priority for the 2006 General Assembly.”
Gov. Fletcher noted that Turfway Park and Keeneland have an insurance policy in effect that provides jockeys for up to $1 million in insurance coverage. Churchill Downs is finalizing a similar agreement.
The race tracks, and the appropriate state agencies, will be working to ensure that employers, such as trainers, provide workers’ comp coverage for their employees who should be covered under a program.
Robert Elliston, president and CEO of Turfway Park, applauded Gov. Fletcher’s efforts. “We thank Governor Fletcher for his leadership and pledge to continue to work with his office to find appropriate solutions to cover all participants of our Commonwealth’s signature industry in the months to come. The collective efforts of Governor Fletcher, Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet Secretary LaJuana S. Wilcher, members of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, and track officials, we have dramatically reduced the population of people who have inadequate coverage.”
The Executive Order requires the Commission to submit a final report to Governor Fletcher by Sept. 1, 2005 which will allow the administration the time to attempt to gather the full support of the General Assembly.
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