The year 2018 was a watershed year for animal welfare in Florida. Among several notable achievements was the phase out and permanent ban of commercial greyhound racing associated with gaming in Florida. The following examines the history of this significant achievement through the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of Florida government, culminating in a historic vote of the people in the 2018 general election.
The 2018 Florida Constitution Revision Commission
For 10 legislative sessions starting in 2008, animal welfare advocates tried unsuccessfully to phase out and ultimately ban commercial greyhound racing associated with gaming in Florida. Although the initiative had widespread bipartisan support, the commercial greyhound breeders and gaming interests successfully defeated every effort of animal welfare interests. This led to the decision by animal welfare advocates to seek instead the support of the 2018 Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), which pursuant to Fla. Const. art. XI, [section]2, meets every 20 years to make a "proposal, if any, of a revision of this constitution or any part of it." On April 16, 2018, the CRC approved proposed constitutional Amendment 13, which was intended to appear on the November 2018 statewide ballot.
Leon County Circuit Court
On May 17, 2018, the Florida Greyhound Association, Inc., and an owner of greyhound racing dogs in Collier County, filed a complaint in the Second Judicial Circuit, Leon County, against the Florida Department of State and the Secretary of State, asking for the proposed Amendment 13 to be declared invalid on grounds that the ballot title and summary required under Florida law were misleading. The proceedings were closely watched. The Florida Bar Animal Law Section (ALS), the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), and the Committee to Protect Dogs, a Florida political committee created by GREY2K USA Worldwide and the Humane Society of the United States, filed amicus curiae briefs in support of keeping the amendment on the ballot.
Following oral argument, the circuit court, on August 1, 2018, held that "Amendment 13 is clearly and conclusively defective." (1) The court decided the case "on the cross motions for summary judgment, the parties [sic] and amici's memoranda, arguments, and on the controlling case law" (2) since "the parties stipulated there were no genuine disputes of material fact, and the court did not identify any issues of material fact in dispute." (3)
The court stated that "the burden for removal of a proposed constitutional amendment is a high one under Florida precedent." (4) Further, the standard of review "requires the uncontested facts to clearly and convincingly establish that the proposed ballot title and summary are misleading and defective, not providing the voters with the 'truth in packaging' to which they are entitled." (5) The court explained that "[i]n this analysis, we consider two questions: (1) whether the ballot title and summary, in clear and unambiguous language, fairly inform the voter of the chief purpose of the amendment; and (2) whether the language of the title and summary, as written, misleads the public." (6) The court went on to say that "this...