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Appeals court hands off dog racing ban challenge to Supreme Court

The 1st District Court of Appeal on Monday agreed to “pass through” to the state’s Supreme Court a case on whether a proposed amendment to end greyhound racing should stay on the November ballot.

A unanimous three-judge panel said the matter was “of great public importance,” needing “immediate resolution … due to time constraints related to the pending election and ballot preparation timelines.” The Supreme Court did not immediately accept jurisdiction.

Tallahassee Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled last week that the proposed ballot title and summary were “clearly and conclusively defective,” and the amendment should not go on the ballot. The measure bans betting on dog racing effective the beginning of 2021.

Among other things, Gievers said the title and summary didn’t make clear to voters that other gambling at racetracks, such as card games and slots, would continue if the measure passed.

Edward M. Wenger – the state’s chief deputy solicitor general – appealed the decision, placing a hold on the effect of Gievers’ ruling pending appellate review.

Judges Joseph Lewis Jr., Scott Makar and M. Kemmerly Thomas also said their court “stand(s) ready to assist on an emergency basis should the matter be remanded back to us for our consideration.”

Amendment 13, placed on the ballot by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission, was challenged by the Florida Greyhound Association, which represents the state’s breeders and owners. Amendments need no less than 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

Both the state and the association had agreed to ask the DCA to pass the case to the Supreme Court, noting that time was of the essence: Mail-in ballots must, by law, be sent to voters by Sept. 22.

“There are only a few companies certified to print these paper ballots in the United States, and every other state in the country is holding elections” on Nov. 6, their filing said. “As a result, counties in Florida submit their ballot orders as early as possible to ensure they meet the mailing deadline.

“… Expedited briefing and oral argument could occur in (the Supreme) Court before the early September practical deadline for printing the general election ballots,” the request said. 

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Featured photo by Van Abernethy

Written By

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.

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