Lubbock horse racing lawsuit challenges delegation of federal power to private citizens

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) – A federal lawsuit that could decide judicial restraint on congressional powers is under consideration right here in Lubbock.

This federal lawsuit revolves around HISA, the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act. That law passed two years ago with sweeping bipartisan support.

It’s intended to streamline requirements nationwide, rather than let the states set their own rules.

In order to do that, congress created the authority. It’s a panel of private citizens, made up of industry members and experts who answer to the Federal Trade Commission.

The heart of the dispute: Does congress have the ability to delegate its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce to a group of private citizens?

Legally speaking, it would be like giving you and me, or a private business, the ability to set taxes and create laws.

The plaintiffs in this case claim even though the FTC is supposed to oversee this private board, the horse racing act does not give it enough strength.

Lubbock Attorney Fernando Bustos says, “Whether it’s Facebook or whether it’s these people who own the jockey club back in New York City, we don’t – in America – want a small group of rich elites calling the shots and setting the rules and taking the place of government. That’s always a bad problem.”

Representatives for the authority argue that the FTC does have enough power to review any proposals it puts forth, saying congress has not delegated the kind of powers the plaintiffs claim.

They say right now, horse racing is too large for states to individually regulate, and it’s in the best interest of the sport – the horses, and the jockeys – for an expert panel to create uniform review.

HISA general counsel John Roach says: “We’re very very excited about helping horse racing stay- have a clean anti-medication policy and racetrack safety. We think the broad range of support as well as congressional support is a great thing for the horseracing industry and we’re confident in the constitutionality in it.”

HISA General Counsel John Roach(KCBD Videos)

This hearing is underway in Lubbock because one of the founding members of the authority lives here.

“If they think that ‘well, these guys in Texas, they’re poor, they’re rural, they don’t take care of their horses well, we’re going to have to require much more expensive regulations in order to stay in regulation,’ they’re going to price us out of the market.”

Bustos says that has not happened yet, but says without proper government oversight, it could.

He claims the FTC does not have the strength necessary to protect and does not allow for appeals.

That, Bustos says, would violate their equal protection rights under the law.

Attorneys for the authority say it’s a perfectly constitutional, and very necessary group.

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