The AHC is the only national association exclusively representing every segment of the vast equine industry here in Washington, DC.
Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act
In the 116th Congress (2019-2020), the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of the “U.S. Senator Joseph Tydings Memorial Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act” by a vote of 333 to 96. This reflects the first time the PAST Act had ever received a vote on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Unfortunately, the Senate version of the bill stalled in the Senate, and the bills died with the end of the 116th Congress.
In the 117th Congress (2021-2022), the House and Senate reintroduced the PAST Act (identical bills – H.R. 5441 and S. 2295 respectively). The bills are also identical to the PAST Act legislation which passed the House in the 116th Congress. In the House, H.R. 5541 again has overwhelming bipartisan support with over 250 cosponsors and the American Horse Council is pushing for an immediate hearing in the Committee of the jurisdiction (the House Energy & Commerce Committee) with the expectation of House floor consideration. In the Senate, S. 2295 also has overwhelming bipartisan support, with over fifty cosponsors. The American Horse Council is also pushing for an immediate committee of jurisdiction hearing (the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee.) In addition, the American Horse Council submitted letters to both the House and Senate Committee leadership urging immediate consideration of the legislation. The American Horse Council also continues to meet with House and Senate Committee professionals to encourage hearings.
Going forward, the Biden Administration is being encouraged to reinstate U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations promulgated in early 2017 and later suspended by the Trump Administration. The American Horse Council and its allies are lobbying for reinstatement of the rule as well as committee and floor consideration of the PAST Act in Congress.
Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act
Investigations in the European Union several years ago found that horse meat had been mixed with beef in food. This prompted concerns about the misleading sales of beef and concerns about the introduction into the food supply of medications and drugs that may have been in the horsemeat. These incidents have changed the focus of legislation introduced in Congress to prohibit the sale of horses or horsemeat for human consumption. While bills had been introduced in the last several Congresses to prohibit the slaughter of horses for food, more recent bills cited health concerns as the rationale for legislation dealing with the slaughter of horses for food. Although lawmakers have introduced bills every year in congress since 2001 to outlaw slaughtering horses, so far none have passed. It is important to note that the American Horse Council remains neutral on the issue of the SAFE Act.
In the 116th Congress, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Congressman Vern Buchanan (R-FL) re-introduced the SAFE Act of 2019 to prohibit the slaughter of horses in the U.S. and the export of horses for slaughter. The bill would make it illegal under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to knowingly sell or transport horses or parts of horses in interstate or foreign commerce for purposes of human consumption. Further in the 116th Congress, the House Energy and Commerce Committee conducted a hearing on “improving safety and transparency in America’s food and drugs.”
In the 117th Congress, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (R-IL) reintroduced the legislation and now garner 208 cosponsors. In the Senate, Senator Robert Menendez introduce identical legislation, garnering five cosponsors.
Horseracing Integrity Act
In September 2020, the House passed the “Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HRISA) of 2020,” legislation on which the AHC remained neutral, but monitored on behalf of its diverse membership. The House-passed bill was a companion to legislation introduced in September by Sens. McConnell (R-KY), Gillibrand (D-NY), McSally (R-AZ), and Feinstein (D-CA). The bill would establish a new, independent regulatory authority responsible for outlining uniform safety and competition standards for Thoroughbred horse racing. As expected, HRISA became law in late December 2020 when Senate leadership folded the bill into the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.”
“Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act” or the “PACT Act” was signed into law by President Trump on November 25, 2019. The bipartisan bill, which passed the House and Senate earlier in the year, outlaws purposeful crushing, burning, drowning, suffocation, impalement or other violence causing “serious bodily injury” to animals. Violations could result in a fine and up to seven years’ imprisonment. The PACT Act has been cheered not only by animal welfare groups but also by many members of law enforcement who want federal tools. Without a federal ban, it is hard to prosecute cases that span different jurisdictions or that occur in airports, military bases, and other places under federal purview. The legislation outlines exemptions for humane euthanasia; slaughter for food; recreational activities such as hunting, trapping, and fishing; medical and scientific research; “normal veterinary, agricultural husbandry, or other animal management practice” and actions that are necessary “to protect the life or property of a person.” The American Horse Council will monitor the implementation of the new law.
Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapy (EAAT)
Equine Assisted Services
Since Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, the horse industry has supported increased federal funding of Equine Assisted Services (EAS) programs to promote veteran health. For the FY 2020 budget, Congress allocated $1.5 million for the Adaptive Sports Program within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). A similar allocation has been made for FY 2021. In another victory for EAS, Congress passed the Whole Veteran Act (H.R. 2359) in 2020, a law which authorizes a study of the effectiveness of various treatments for veterans, including EAS.
Guest Worker Visas
Guest Worker Visa Reform
The horse industry and its allies continue to urge Congress to pass important legislation that will provide relief for chronic labor shortages. In addition to advocating for legislation, to bridge a long-term gap between labor needs, and worker supply, the horse industry is currently collecting data to develop a certification program for equine professionals. This would create incentives for U.S. students and workers to establish careers in the horse industry. To meet immediate labor needs, however, the industry currently relies on two major guest worker programs managed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), specifically the H-2A and H-2B programs. Unfortunately, piles of red tape and ambiguous work requirements delay the issuance of timely visas and prevent the horse industry and other sectors from hiring the workers they need.
- H-2B Guest Worker Visas– AHC and its allies in the H-2B Workforce Coalition successfully advocated for “cap flexibility” within the FY 2020 spending law. As in years past, the funding bill addresses the stringent 66,000 visa cap and gives DHS authority to effectively double the number of visas authorized by the cap.
- H-2A Guest Worker Visas– In September 2019, AHC met with officials at the White House to endorse proposed efficiencies to the H-2A visa program and advocated for broader horse industry eligibility to participate in the program.
- DHS and DOL Issue Supplemental H-2B Cap – Increasing Visas for First Half of 2022Prior to the 2021 holiday season, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced the publication of a joint temporary final rule (Federal Register :: Exercise of Time-Limited Authority To Increase the Fiscal Year 2021 Numerical Limitation for the H-2B Temporary Nonagricultural Worker Program and Portability Flexibility for H-2B Workers Seeking To Change Employers) which will make an additional 20,000 H-2B visas available on or before March 31, 2022. The American Horse Council will continue to monitor, track and report on the rule going forward.
Specifically, the supplemental will allow for 13,500 visas available to returning workers who received an H-2B or were granted H-2B status during one of the last three fiscal years. The remaining 6,500 visas, which are exempt from the returning worker requirement, are reserved for nationals of Haiti, and the Northern Triangle Countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. “In the coming months, DHS will seek to implement policies that will make the H-2B program even more responsive to the needs of our economy, while protecting the rights of both U.S. and non-citizen workers,” commented U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
What is the H-2B Program?
The H-2B program permits employers to temporarily hire noncitizens to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States. The employment must be of a temporary nature for a limited period of time, such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal need, or intermittent need. Employers seeking H-2B workers must take a series of steps to test the U.S. labor market. They must also certify in their petitions that there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work for which they seek a prospective foreign worker. In addition, they must certify that employing H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
Recreation and Trails
New U.S. Forest Service Guidance on Use of Equestrian Campsites
(Washington D.C.) At the prompting of the equine community, last month the Forest Service national office circulated a memo to all national forests and national grasslands titled “Recommended Best Practices for Managing Stock Use Sites at Developed Campgrounds.” A copy of that memo can be found here.
The problem of occupied horse camps escalated across the nation during the COVID pandemic, when many families and others chose close-to-home vacations in favor of long-distance travel. The Forest Service memo describes well the implications to stock users of this growing problem.
The American Horse Council would like to encourage equine organizations, such as local clubs, state horse councils and others, to review this memo and, importantly, to use it as a reason to schedule a meeting with personnel at your local national forest to assist you to achieve the following objectives:
- Ensure the memo was received by the local Forest Service office,
2. Discuss with forest staff the magnitude of the problem locally and the memo’s relevancy and implications, and
3. Come to agreement on what adjustments in the management of equestrian campsites within Forest Service jurisdiction might be implemented in order to communicate to the public the need to prioritize equestrian campsites for use by parties with stock.
Back Country Horsemen of America (BCHA) and its allies have developed a Horse Camp Incident Report form for campsite users to capture and record incidents where parties without stock are occupying Forest Service equestrian campsites. The purpose of the form is to collect data should we need to make the case for new regulations to prevent parties without stock from occupying equestrian campsites. The form may be found here
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
· Always be courteous to other campground users. It’s likely that any party without stock has occupied an equestrian campsite because regular campsites were already taken or reserved.
· Remember, it’s not illegal for others to camp in an equestrian campsite. Plus, some folks might not know the difference between an equestrian and regular campsites or why their occupancy of an equestrian campsite might force equestrian campers to travel far distances in order to find a legal campsite—if not forced to return home, an outing ruined.
· If you end up speaking with such parties, use these talking points to educate them about the scarcity of legal campsites for equestrian use and what happens when parties without stock occupy equestrian campsites.
In December 2021, the Sente Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on a package of federal land, recreation bills. More specifically, the bills included –
- S. 1229, to modify the procedures for issuing special recreation permits for certain public land units, and for other purposes (Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act).
- S. 1269, to require the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to complete an interagency report on the effects of special recreation permits on environmental justice communities, and for other purposes (Environmental Justice in Recreation Permitting Act).
- S. 1616, to provide exceptions from permitting and fee requirements for content creation, regardless of distribution platform, including digital or analog video and digital or analog audio recording activities, conducted on land under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior (Federal Interior Land Media Act).
- S. 1874, to promote innovative approaches to outdoor recreation on Federal land and to increase opportunities for collaboration with non-Federal partners, and for other purposes (Recreation Not Red Tape Act).
- S. 2258, to direct the Secretary of the Interior to establish a Parks, Jobs, and Equity Program to support job creation, economic revitalization, and park development for communities impacted by COVID–19 (Parks, Jobs, and Equity Act).
- S. 2886, to amend title 54, United States Code, to authorize the donation and distribution of capes, horns, and antlers from wildlife management activities carried out on National Park System land (Cape and Antler Preservation Enhancement Act).
- S. 2887, to codify the existing Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program of the National Park Service, and for other purposes (Outdoors for All Act).
- S. 3264, to require the Secretary of the Interior and the Sectary of Agriculture to develop long-distance bike trails on Federal lands, and for other purposes (the Bike Over Long-distance Trails Act).
- S. 3266, to improve recreation opportunities on, and facilitate greater access to, Federal public land, and for other purposes (Outdoor Recreation Act).
The American Horse Council will keep members up to date.
Sports Betting Overview
On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in the landmark Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) decision. Passed in 1992, the law banned most states from authorizing sports gambling. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision however, many states have moved forward with state-level programs. According to an industry study, the number of states enacting sports betting programs will climb to 25 to 37 by 2023 and generate anywhere from $3.1 billion to $5.2 billion in revenue.
While most legislative activities related to sports betting takes place at the state level, Congress has considered a possible federal framework to establish “ground rules” for state programs. These baseline standards might address consumer protection and public welfare issues such as gambling addiction, and assurances that bets are honored in a timely manner. That said, no federal legislation moved during the 116th Congress, and is unlikely any legislation at the national level will gain traction in the 117th Congress.
Currently, there are approximately thirty states where sports betting is now legal, including eighteen that allow online sports wagering. This means more than one hundred million Americans can place a legal wager where they live.
This month, New York State launched its much-anticipated mobile sports wagering program. Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings, FanDuel and Rush Street Interactive will launch what will become a $1 billion market (annual gross gaming revenue) and Bally’s, Bet MGM, Wynn Interactive, Resorts World and Pointset are expected to enter the market soon.
The legalization of sports wagering has spread across the country since 2018, when the Supreme Court overturned PASPA. PASPA had effectively made sports betting illegal except in Nevada and a few other states. After the ban was struck down, states have been allowed to legalize sports betting and launch their own programs. The industry has been on fire and growing rapidly. The market has grown from nineteen states to thirty-two and Washington, D.C. in the last 12 months.
As legalization continues to spread across the country, more Americans are betting more money than ever before. According to the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) Commercial Gaming Revenue Tracker, U.S. sports betting handle hit at $42.19 billion from January 2021 through October, almost doubled the amount wagers during the same time in 2020. Legal sportsbooks held more than $400 million in October 2021 alone, according to the AGA.
Maryland, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin are in the process of launching their programs. Florida legalized sports betting last year through a gambling compact with the state’s Seminole Tribe—a deal that was slated to bring $2.5 billion in tax revenue to Florida over five years. But a federal judge overturned the deal, ruling that the plan violated the state’s constitution and federal Indian gambling law. The tribe is appealing the ruling and the state’s mobile sports betting market is currently in limbo.
Federal Tax Policy
Major federal policy developments related to tax issues continue to change the tax landscape for the horse industry: implementation and changes to landmark tax reform legislation that passed in late 2017; and ongoing advocacy to extend tax credits for racehorses. The following are some highlights:
Three Year Depreciation for Racehorses
The horse industry has successfully advocated over the years for the inclusion of a three-year depreciation credit for racehorses – Congress must reauthorize this provision in the tax law on an annual basis. This provision, which eliminated the 7-year depreciation period for racehorses and made all racehorses eligible for three-year depreciation, originally expired at the end of 2016 and was subsequently extended each year.
In the current 117th Congress, Congressman Andy Barr (R-KY), introduced legislation making the three-year depreciation of racehorses permanent. Additionally, this legislation would reduce the holding period for equine assets to be considered long-term capital gains, putting them on a level playing field with other similar assets. The American Horse Council is working with Congressman Barr and his legislation – which is endorsed by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, the Jockey Club, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, Keeneland, and the American Horse Council.
Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT)
As part of the “Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020.” Congress repealed Section 512(a)(7) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. This Code section was added as part of the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017” (TCJA) and resulted in an unrelated business income tax (UBIT) liability when a tax-exempt entity provides qualified transportation benefits to employees.
The UBIT on qualified transportation fringe benefits only affected tax-exempt entities. UBIT generally applies to income that is not related to an entity’s exempt purpose, so it was unclear why Congress targeted expenses related to providing parking or transportation for employees. Under the TCJA, tax-exempt entities offering qualified transportation fringe benefits to their employees were exposed to a 21% UBIT tax. The tax applied regardless of whether the employer was providing the benefits or whether employees were paying pre-tax.
The amount of the UBIT was based on the qualified transportation benefit expenditures instead of the entity’s income. As a result, tax-exempt entities were experiencing larger UBIT bills, even though employees may have been paying for the benefits themselves via salary reduction.
Under the Act, the UBIT for tax-exempt entities who offered qualified transportation fringe benefits is retroactively repealed. This means that tax-exempt entities are no longer subject to UBIT on qualified transportation benefits and should also be able to seek a refund of taxes paid.
With this repeal, tax-exempt entities can continue to provide employees with qualified transportation benefits without incurring a 21% tax. More specifically for many American Horse Council member associations and the non-profit world at large, the FY2020 spending bill repealed the 21 % UBIT imposed on non-profit organizations that provide transportation and parking benefits to their employees. Widely referred to as the “church tax,” repeal of the unpopular UBIT provision has emerged as the most significant “roll back” of the new tax law.
Background: In 1950, Congress amended the tax law to introduce the concept of “unrelated business income.” Congress enacted the law because it was concerned about nonprofit organizations having an unfair advantage competing in the same activities as for-profit organizations.
Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment
The American Horse Council supports programs that increase access to veterinary medicine services in rural areas. These policies will help safeguard animal health and welfare, food safety, animal disease surveillance and public health. In the 116th Congress, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced the “Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment” a bill that would decrease the tax liability for veterinarians practicing in under-served areas. Congress established a similar program for physicians, dentists and other healthcare professionals who choose to practice in areas of the country where access to basic healthcare services is limited. In the 117th Congress, identical bills to that of Senator Crapo have been introduced in the House and Senate – H.R. 2447 – 23 cosponsors, Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI), and S. 2215 – 12 cosponsors, Senator Debbie Stabenow (R-MI). Veterinary shortages exist in more than 250 rural communities covering 1100 counties across the country.
Name, Image, Likeness Guidance for NCAA Equestrian Athletes
In a memorandum last year, NCAA President Mark Emmert informed and updated the members of the NCAA of the ongoing issues of name, image, and likeness (NIL). The NCAA has been working to create new rules to allow student-athletes to be compensated for NIL activities while preserving the elements of college athletes. Many states have enacted NIL legislation, and the NCAA has urged Congress to create a single, national law regarding NIL. Several bills have been introduced in the 117th Congress however, there has been no movement on the legislation. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that there should be no limits on compensation to student-athletes with regard to NIL.
What this means for NCAA equestrian athletes. The issue centers around “education-related benefits” related to compensation for NIL to student-athletes (i.e.: laptops, paid post-graduate internships, tutoring, studying abroad, etc.). The NCAA issued a “Collegiate Equestrian NIL Guidance” and important components all equestrian athletes need to keep in mind. The American Horse Council continues to track and monitor the issue and will keep members, the industry, and student-athletes up to date.
- Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding – Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)
- Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding – Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS)