Senate Bill 444 will increase fines for violating the state's Horse Racing Act tenfold, and Senate Bill 72 establishes a $700,000 fund to test race horses for alleged performance-enhancing drugs.
"This is exciting," said Martinez, as she put her signature on both bills. "We're fixing the horse racing industry as fast as we can."
The $700,000 for testing of horses is more than twice the amount the New Mexico State Racing Commission now spends. The additional money will come from existing taxes assessed on pari-mutuel wagering at state horse racing tracks.
Increased fines on owners and trainers convicted of using illegal drugs on race horses, or violations of state racing rules, could come from a horse's track winnings. Now fines are limited to $10,000 for each violation.
"We owe it to owners, jockeys, horses and fans alike to ensure that everyone in the industry conducts themselves with integrity," Martinez said. "Anyone who endangers a horse or a jockey should face stiff penalties."
The new laws come after a New York Times story last year highlighted drug use in the horse racing industry, as well as horse deaths and jockey injuries at tracks across the U.
S., including New Mexico.
State Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, who authored both bills said the New York Times story prompted the tougher laws.
"This means a lot for the state of New Mexico," Papen said. "The state took its hits with the New York Times story."
Last year, the racing commission adopted new standards on the drugs that can be administered to horses. Senate Bill 72 ensures those standards will remain tied to guidelines established by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, and it will require use of testing labs that meet the association's guidelines.
"We want to make sure the racing commission remains accountable to stay within the high standards of the industry as far as testing," said Vince Mares, executive director of the New Mexico State Racing Commission.
With additional money, state regulators will test more horses in each race. Also, out-of-competition testing will be conducted where horses will be tested weeks ahead of a race in attempts to ensure drugs haven't been administered during training.
The Associated Press contributed to this story
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