KENNETT SQUARE, Pa.--The when and how of restarting racing in Pennsylvania was the topic that dominated the discussion at the virtual annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association on May 20.
While PHBA President Greg Newell and Executive Secretary Brian Sanfratello stressed the fact that Gov. Wolf has dictatorial power over restarting racing and concentrated on ways to persuade him to reopen, Bob Hutt brought up an interesting and little known fact.
"The Governor has the ultimate power," said Newell. "He has dictatorial power in a state emergency. The legislature, (which is predominately republican) has no ability to influence him."
Hutt said that there are two bills being put forward in the Republican dominated Senate.
"Wolf (who is a democrat) gets his power from act 7301, paragraph C," said Hutt. "If those two bills passed, it would take away the governor's emergency powers and put it back in the hands of Congress."
"We need to get that information into the hands of our lobbyists," said Hutt. "We're in a battle for our lives."
"If we get enough support from both houses and put forward a bill, and the Governor vetoed it, could we override a veto?" said Peter Gianguillio.
"THE GOVERNOR is in his second term, he's politically isolated, but rather then embarrass him with a veto, we'd rather try to persuade him," said Newell. "There are so many behind the scenes considerations. Considerations of not stepping on anyone's toes."
"The House is putting together a bill to give racing a waiver that will come up for a vote soon, and 19 senators are putting a letter together to reopen racing," said Sanfratello.
"Congress is controlled by republicans, but we also have some strong supporters among democratic senators," said Newell.
"With spectator free racing, you wouldn't have anyone coming in from the outside than wasn't already there," said Sanfratello. "In the morning, you sometimes have as many as 50 horses on the track at the same time, with trainers and riders. In the afternoon, you would only have eight or 10 on the track at the same time, with the same people who are there every morning."
"Parx has 500 to 600 people coming in daily with no problem," said Newell.
"The Governor is relying heavily on his medical advisors," said Newell. "We're trying to get to the medical team. Two key lobbyists have a meeting with the chief of the medical staff.'
"The Governor's staff wants to know what the protocol will be to reopen safely," said Newell. "Things like assistant trainers and jockeys wearing masks. That needs to be written down. Hopefully, that will be done tomorrow."
"We could open without the casinos being opened," said Newell. "We can run five or six weeks at three days a week with the money there is in a reserve account. That's what Penn National wants to do, Parx horsemen feel they could operate for a while by running more often with lesser purses."