FRANKFORT — A legislative committee voted down companion regulations to a controversial ban on Lasix in Kentucky's horse racing industry, and that could signal political trouble for the ban.
The Interim Joint Committee on Licensing and Occupations voted 19-1 Monday to find a regulation from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission deficient.
The companion regulation would limit who could administer Lasix on race days, and it would ban adjunct bleeding medications in horse racing. Four lawmakers declined to vote on the regulation, saying there were too many questions.
Gov. Steve Beshear can override the committee's vote and implement the regulation. But one Democratic legislator said after Monday's vote that Beshear should think twice before doing so because of the planned ban's effect on the industry.
"I would advise him not to do it," House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville said.
In a statement, Beshear said he would "have some conversations with the Horse Racing Commission and others before deciding how we will move forward."
Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, was the only legislator to support the companion regulation. (The regulation that would put the ban in place has not come before a legislative committee for a vote.)
Many horsemen oppose the ban, which is scheduled to take effect in upper-level stakes races beginning in 2014, because Kentucky would be the only state to outlaw a medication now given to more than 90 percent of horses in U.S. races.
Some breeders and tracks say the ban would cause an exodus of horses from Kentucky races. But a report by The Jockey Club released earlier this year showed that horse racing is losing fans rapidly and cannot gain new ones in part because of blurred public perceptions of legal race-day medication and illegal drug use.
Clark and other legislators said they hope the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will examine the issue again. The commission approved the Lasix ban by a 7-5 vote in June.
The drug furosemide, called Lasix or Salix, is used as an anti-bleeder medication but also is a potent diuretic.
Clark and others said Monday's vote on the companion regulations showed that the legislature was uneasy with the ban.
"I think they will have a difficult time with it," Clark said of the regulation banning Lasix.
Thayer encouraged Beshear on Monday to implement the regulation, saying the racing commission has held lots of public meetings about the issue, and it is time to act.
"This is just a red herring," Thayer said. "I think the reg got ambushed. ... This was just an effort to muddy the waters."