Greyhound racing ban passes legal muster, ‘pregnant pig’ lawyer says – Florida Politics

Greyhound racing ban passes legal muster, ‘pregnant pig’ lawyer says

The lawyer that successfully represented a pig farmer who sued over the state’s ‘pregnant pig’ constitutional amendment now says another proposed amendment to do away with greyhound racing is legally sound.

Broad & Cassel attorney M. Stephen Turner, who represented Florida pig farmer Stephen Basford, wrote an opinion letter – provided to Florida Politics Thursday – for GREY2K USA Worldwide, the organization that seeks to end dog racing.

Greyhound owners say that the amendment at issue (P67), would amount to an unconstitutional ‘taking’ if passed. In constitutional-law parlance, a taking is when government “uses, regulates, (or) seizes private property” and doesn’t pay for it.

Florida also has its own law, the “Bert J. Harris Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act,” to protect property owners from takings that don’t rise to a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and former appellate judge Paul Hawkes, who now represent the Florida Greyhound Association (FGA), say the amendment’s passage will subject the state to lawsuits worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 12 tracks.

The dog-racing ban is one of 36 to be considered by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) when it convenes in Session, beginning Monday in Tallahassee. Turner’s letter was sent to commissioners earlier Thursday.

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The panel is formed every 20 years to review and consider changes to the state’s governing document. The CRC can place amendments directly on the ballot, but they still must be approved by at least 60 percent.

Proposal sponsor Tom Lee, a CRC member and Republican state senator from Thonotosassa, plans to tweak it to include a ban on the “commercial” racing of dogs altogether, not just betting on dog races, as it currently stands.

Turner won Basford’s case over the pig amendment, passed by voters in 2002 and in effect by 2008, that said pregnant pigs could not be “confined” in such a way that “prevented (them) from turning around freely.”

Basford had to shut down his pig operation; he eventually won over $500,000 in a decision upheld in a 2-1 ruling by a 1st District Court of Appeal panel.

“In contrast, gambling on dog races is a nuisance at common law, and a constitutional amendment reverting that activity to illegal status would not cause taking of property,” Turner wrote. “… Its prohibition is well within (the state’s) police power.”

Turner’s letter, however, is based on a ban on wagering on greyhound racing, not the outright ban on dog racing that Lee now contemplates. Lee filed that change Wednesday.

“Unfortunately for Mr. Turner he obviously wrote his opinion before” Lee filed the change, said Jack Cory, the FGA’s spokesman and lobbyist. That change “only strengthens our position.”

Still, “to the extent that dog owners, breeders, trainers and kennel operators might claim their personal property is devalued … even a regulation directed to personal property cannot constitute a taking if there is some remaining use that can be made of the property,” Turner wrote.

“The voters deserve the opportunity to decide whether commercial greyhound racing should be phased out,” said Christine Dorchak, co-founder, president and general counsel of GREY2K USA Worldwide. “Proposal 67 deserves a place before voters in November.”

But Kottkamp and Hawkes, writing in an op-ed sent this week to Florida Politics, see a potential deluge of claims.

“Nothing in CRC Proposal 67 prohibits bleachers, but the state would most likely have to compensate the owners of the bleachers or viewing stands at each of the racetracks because (they were) part of the ‘functionally integrated nature’ of the property,” they wrote.

“The question then is: What is the fair market value of all the real and tangible property in Florida that would be adversely affected by the passage of CRC Proposal 67?” Added to that figure would be litigation cost and attorney fees as in the Basford case.

Racing greyhounds “are routinely purchased for as little as $2,000 or as much as $50,000,” they added. “You could assume a very conservative average of $5,000 per dog, which would total $40 million. You would then add the value of the approximately 7,000 racing greyhounds on farms that are being raised and trained. A very conservative figure for greyhounds in training would be $3,000 each or another $21 million.

“Thus, an extremely conservative estimate of the damages just for the racing greyhounds that could no longer race as the result of CRC Proposal 67 would be over $60 million. This does not include the partial taking and loss-of-value claims related to kennel property and equipment.”

Updated Friday — Dorchak responds in an email: “The Florida Greyhound Association does not understand the proposed legislation and is desperately trying to confuse Commissioners. Proposal 67 outlaws commercial dog racing, and prohibits new racing licenses. The Broad and Cassel memo makes clear that racing licenses are not property and do not trigger recovery under the Bert Harris Act. This carefully prepared analysis applies equally to the initially filed text and to the new strike-all language.”

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

15 Comments

  1. It should be on the ballet to vote for fraud charges against y2grey and Tom Lee/,these are nothing but carpetbaggers and con artists- it’s sad they are allowed to speak in public -need a forensic account to go over thier finances for bribes and payola

  2. What? Grey2K is only the organization trying to shut down dog-racing. The fundamental issue, and the cause for the global outcry, is the decades-old inhumane treatment of Greyhounds lest you conveniently forget.
    Forty states have outlawed Greyhound racing because of the dispicable and inhumane treatment of the dogs. The Greyhound racing industry have created their own demise, not Grey2K.

    1. Sorry to burst your bubble, Danny boy, but racing is NOT ILLEGAL IN 40 STATES! Wagering on racing is – there is a BIG DIFFERENCE. But then you conveniently forget these things when you parrot the Mothership from MA who is meddling in Florida matters. DOG RACING does NOT belong in the Florida Constitution!

    2. Only one state has banned greyhound racing. There are some that have banned pari-mutuel wagering. Greyhounds are not treated inhumanely at all. Go visit a kennel at a track and see for yourself.

    3. It has not been banned in 40 states that is the motherships wording. It is only illegal in idaho. Do some research before you regurgitate there outright lies. They are not florida residents and should have no say in what goes on in a state they cant vote in. Tom Lee well he has proven he loves lining his pockets with special interest dollars. Typical crooked politican. Glad you can support a group whos president is praised and admired by a domestic terrorist group as list by the FBI

    4. Actually greyhound id’s only illegal in one state, Iowa. It’s perfectly legal to race/ lure course greyhounds in the rest of the 49 states. If this goes thru, there will no longer be state regulation on greyhound racing & if u think unregulated greyhound racing is a good thing, u might wanna check again. Just look at the galgos in Spain.

  3. Same old story about 40 states outlawing 1 IDAHO which you can still bet on the Greyhound races from around the country. The betting outlets are at cour d’lene casino, Idaho Falls and Pocatello Downs!!!!! Look it up folks another lie Debunked!

  4. No the problem is uninformed public on the evils of greyhound racing- volunteer with an adoption group at a dogtrack and see the lies that have been told- y2grey has made a living on badmouthing racing- because 40 states ban it- how many banned gay marriages for years?? Because gays are bad- no ignorance- same this thing with greyhound racing

  5. I don’t care if it’s banned or illegal in one or 40 states. It’s inhumane the way these beautiful dogs are treated. These people have done themselves in as far as I am concerned and it should be stopped.

  6. I am disgusted with the constant lies this out of state group distributes. Florida is a state of diversity and allows all to live freely-at least the last time I checked. Dog racing has no place on the constitution. Most of us little people can’t line political pockets. The record keeping is distorted and flawed. Who is checking the facts? I spent 6 weeks on the MA reports when they came out and found many errors. Many of the greyhounds returned to racing and some of the ones listed as deaths were in fact, back on farms with their owners. Our politicians and residents are being dupped and much of the media is not reporting all the facts. There is fake news in greyhound racing too. To ban an industry that Mr Lee introduced without experience in the daily greyhound operations in FL that regulates the sport is an insult to the FL industry and the voters.

  7. And Christine Dorchak is credible HOW????
    -Grey2k was founded by Christine Dorchak – FACT
    -In 1992 she either purposely or accidentally was hit by a train in Boston FACT – from court docs
    -She subsequently tried to sue the MBTA(operator of the train) in 1994 and the jury found against her – FACT court docs
    -In sworn court testimony, she testifies that she has no memory of that day or the accident – FACT court docs
    -In 2001 She put out a video with graphic details of the accident, a promo piece if you will for Grey2k to get people to donate – FACT
    -If you Google Ms. Dorchaks name, you will find hundreds if interviews about the accident – FACT
    -If she testified UNDER OATH that she had no memory, where do the stories of the accident come from?
    -In court testimony there were no witness mentions, though she says a lady in a nearby building heard the crash and came to check on her, plus she stated she had no memory of that day. FACT
    -She claims there were two speeding trains, court docs show one train at 10-15 MPH and slowing down at the platform where she was hit. FACT from court docs

    -Her and her husband Carey Theil sent an email to their follower base in 2007 pointing once AGAIN to her made up accident story in the Christian Science Monitor, and at the end they write and I quote “Please read Christine’s story, and consider making a contribution to GREY2K USA’s continuing efforts to shut down dog tracks nationwide. Every dollar counts in our fight to end the cruelty of commercial dog racing, so please be as generous as you can. We can’t do it without you!”. Seems to me that LYING for donation money especially when those two basically live off of donations is FRAUD.
    Christine & Carey, you may want to look up FL State Statute 836 which you have been violating with the lies, misinformation, and FRAUD. We ARE coming after you, your days are numbered. Better start paying off the different state prosecutors.

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