03/23/2006 1:00AM

Ky. comp plan advances


LEXINGTON, Ky. - A bill that would increase the takeout in Kentucky by 0.1 percent to pay for an insurance policy covering jockeys passed in a House committee on Thursday after being attached to an unrelated bill as an amendment.

The bill, which was passed unanimously by the Labor and Industry Committee, has drawn heavy support from the state's racing industry and Gov. Ernie Fletcher. The measure was sent to the Labor and Industry Committee on Thursday after Rep. Denver Butler refused to hear the bill earlier this week in the committee he chairs, House Licensing and Occupation.

Scott Crosbie, a lobbyist for the Jockeys' Guild, said late on Thursday that the fate of the bill remains uncertain because of objections to the measure in the full House. The legislature is expected to remain in session for two more days, on Friday and Monday.

"The next 48 hours are going to be critical," Crosbie said. "We've got to work on the House leadership to get their issues resolved."

If the bill is passed by the House, it would also need to be passed in a conference committee, because the legislation has already passed in the Senate but without the insurance-funding amendment attached.

Late last year, a committee of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority issued recommendations calling for the state's racetracks, horse owners, and jockeys to contribute to a fund that would purchase a state-administered insurance policy to cover injured jockeys. That funding proposal, however, was scrapped late last week and replaced by the takeout increase after the guild registered objections to having jockeys contribute to the fund.

The current bill raises the takeout on all bets for three years. The increase is expected to generate $1.2 million a year for the program by reducing the winning payouts to bettors.

Darrell Haire, the interim national manager of the guild, said Thursday morning that jockeys had consistently warned racing officials throughout the past six months that the guild would not support a bill that forced riders to contribute to the program.

"One-tenth of one percent is not going to have any impact at all," Haire said.