Florida Supreme Court puts proposed amendment prohibiting greyhound racing on November ballot

By Sandra Lane | Sep 19, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) – The Florida Supreme Court on Sept. 7 reversed a lower court that had ruled that the wording of a proposed constitutional amendment to be voted on in November was defective.

The proposed amendment, which can now appear on the ballot, asks voters to decide whether or not to continue the racing of greyhounds and other dogs on racetracks in Florida.

The Florida Greyhound Association opposed this action and filed suit against the state of Florida, saying that the wording of the amendment was flawed and did not accurately express the purpose of the amendment. 

Therefore, it maintained, the amendment could not be put on the November ballot, and the 2nd Judicial Court agreed. The court granted summary judgment and entered an injunction forbidding Amendment 13 from appearing on the November general election ballot.

As a result, the state of Florida appealed this decision to the 1st District Court of Appeal, which transferred it to the Florida Supreme Court.

“We reverse the judgment of the circuit court, vacate the injunction, and order that Amendment 13 shall appear on the November 2018 general election ballot,” Justice Charles T. Canady wrote.

In his ruling, Canady said that there were three issues under consideration in this appeal. He stated that first, the court had to decide whether Amendment 13’s language was defective or not. Second, the court would have to decide whether or not the ballot language adequately explains the effect of Amendment 13 on other forms of gaming.

Third, the judge said, “We must determine whether the ballot language is misleading because it fails to disclose that adoption of Amendment 13 would not end all racing of dogs and would allow wagering on out-of-state races to continue.”

The judge stated that all three of these issues passed the test.

“Because the fundamental value provision does not have any independent legal significance, we conclude it is prefatory and that its omission from the ballot summary does not render the ballot language clearly and conclusively defective. We therefore conclude that the circuit court erred when it held that the ballot language was clearly and conclusively defective for failing to inform the voters that approval of Amendment 13 would recognize the humane treatment of animals as a fundamental value,” the ruling states.

“Accordingly, the decision of the circuit court is hereby reversed, the injunction entered pursuant to that judgment is hereby vacated, and it is hereby ordered that Amendment 13 appear on the ballot for the November 2018 general election. No motion for rehearing will be allowed,” the ruling states.

Justice Barbara J. Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga and Allen Lawson concurred. 

Justice Peggy A. Quince dissented.

"The majority concludes that because the restriction on the licenses is merely statutory and the constitutional provision was based on past dog races, not future races, Amendment 13 will not affect other forms of gaming," she wrote.

"I disagree. There is no reasonable way for a voter to know whether, by voting yes for this amendment, they are also voting to either suspend or expand all pari-mutuel activities in the State because Amendment 13 would waive an important condition of licensure for operators of cardrooms and slot machines whose licenses arose out of their pari-mutuel dog racing permits."

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