Guns, greyhounds and privacy dominate constitution hearing

Carlos Beruff and the Constitution Revision Commission

Guns, greyhounds, and privacy.

Two of the three most commonly- and passionately-discussed topics at Monday’s first public hearing for the Florida Constitution Revision Commission’s proposed amendments weren’t even among the 37 active propositions.

Yet dozens of speakers at the Maxwell C. King Center in Melbourne Monday spoke of their desire to see a Florida Constitution amendment banning assault weapons, a proposal that initially irked Chairman Carlos Beruff when League ofWomen Voters of Florida President Pamela Goodman first urged its consideration. But Beruff recovered, and expressed more tolerance and patience listening to numerous successors to Goodman on the topic.

Many of those speakers, and many others, also urged the commission to keep dead a proposal from Commissioner John Stemberger that would revise the state’s privacy guarantee in a way many of the speakers said was a clear attack on women’s rights to chose abortion.

Stemberger is president and general counsel of the anti-abortion group Florida Family Policy Center. He listened quietly and did not address the opposition to his Proposal 22, which was voted down by the commission’s judicial committee, but still could be revised by the full commission.

Since neither was on the agenda, none of the more than 220 registered speakers spoke in favor of assault weapons nor Proposal 22 on Monday, and the 15 commissioners who attended, with a few rare exceptions, just listened and said nothing.

That was not the case with greyhounds, subject of Proposal 67 from state Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa. Dozens of speakers, including children, spoke about the horrors they had heard about or seen involving the lives of racing greyhound dogs, and they urged the commission to put the proposal on the ballot.

“It’s shameful that our state provides strong anti-cruelty laws other dogs, but allows greyhound racing dogs to suffer and die,” said Janet Winikoff, director of education for the Humane Society of Vero Beach, and a board member of the Florida Associations of Animal Welfare Associations.

Numerous representatives of the industry dispute the claims of dog abuse, contending that, as businessmen, they could not possibly succeed if they did not take good care of the dogs, and arguing that thousands of jobs were on the line.

“We have to fight to save these people’s jobs, including mine,” said Frank McCarron, owner of Seminole Animal Supply.

The high stakes led to high levels of animosity, with shouts of “Lies!” against one speaker, and exchanges of insults as speakers passed each other heading to and from the microphones.

There was that level of passion for a handful of other issues, including the upstart effort to get an assault weapon ban into the constitution, and to protect the privacy rights.

Also drawing powerful emotional support was Proposition 96, which would bring so-called “Marsy’s Law” provisions into Florida to protect the victims of crime, with, among other things, notifications of when their attackers are released from jail or prison. Several victims of violent crime, including women stalked and haunted in later years by their attackers, pleaded for its support.

Proposal 88 to offer “bills of rights” to nursing home residents got mixed responses, as did proposals to address local elections, Proposals 13 and 43, and a handful of more specifically-targeted proposals dealing with items ranging from the hiring of security in courtrooms to Bar Association membership requirements.

Much of the audience took on a progressive political attitude, salted in part by a large press conference held prior to the meeting, involving the League of Women Voters, the National Organization of Women, and Planned Parenthood, among others, who all then went inside and signed up to speak.

The strongest oppositions came to such things as Proposition 4 to allow for state funding of religious schools, decried as a proposition that would tear down of the state’s wall between church and state; and the strongest support came for such things as Proposition 91, banning oil and gas drilling off the Florida coast.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


  • Steve Hough

    February 19, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Before the greyhound debate sucked all the air out of the room, there were statements on an issue that absolutely requires a constitutional amendment. Review the video when it is posted and check out speaker #3.

  • Jennifer Newcome

    February 20, 2018 at 12:41 am

    Great job today from everyone who went out to oppose Prop 67 and STAND UP for the greyhounds and the people who love and care for them!!! I found it very sad and quite disturbing that those young children came up to recite lines that were obviously written by an adult who is equally clueless. How dare they brainwash young minds like that, ones who have never seen any of that for themselves as well as their “coaches.” The one young girl who spoke in opposition was one with first hand experience, having been around them her entire life. The story that she told was quite different and straight from her own heart.
    As Frank McCarron said “I’ve been in EVERY kennel in Florida, I go to them all weekly. All I see are happy, well cared for dogs, and people who love them.” This perspective is not able to refuted or challenged, as Frank, owner of Seminole Animal Supply is the only one who can make those claims, seeing as the is the only supplier. To close this out with another quote from Frank “Prop 67 is bad for greyhounds, it’s bad for people and it’s bad for Florida.”

  • steven M Grabarczyk

    February 20, 2018 at 8:07 am

    So EVERY racing greyhound has ear tattoos for ID purposes. What are the ID’s of those dogs that supposedly that Sonia person took in that were injured, almost euthanized, etc. Why not prove it by ID’s? Identify the dog victim. Why? Because it’s all made up. Another point, how many times did you hear “a dog dies every 3 days”? And how many times did you hear that “there are no regulations in reporting injuries, deaths”? WHICH ONE IS IT? Tells you the credibility right there and all you need to know about the mindset of the wacky lying activists.

  • Abbey Zap

    February 20, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Sonia does NOT lie. I have seen the abuse first hand and have been anti-racing ever since (12+ years). The dogs get hurt and the owners don’t pay. If it were not for adoption groups these dogs would be put down! As it is, way too many dogs get put to sleep each year. It makes me physically sick!!!

    • William Grabow

      February 20, 2018 at 10:38 pm

      She does lie, I adopted a dog that had a broken leg and her leg was set and put in a cast before she came from the kennel, the owners paid for it, they have a fund set up, I have seen others come off the track with cast also, What makes me sick is people like her and yourself that fabricate lies and dont know what your talking about, she claims all these dogs have died, what are their ear tattoos and names so someone can research it

  • Barbara Masi

    February 20, 2018 at 10:25 am

    Shameful lies spoken by those who spoke against greyhound racing. So-called “facts” fabricated …….. out of state influence in Florida issues evident. Listen to those who work in the industry – those who support them. Listen to those who have received dogs from kennel owners / trainers in super condition. Listen to those who have occasionally received an injured dog and had the kennel owners help with vet bills. This is a CARING community…….. and they deserve to continue to work with these magnificent creatures that were born to run. The state needs to go after the so-called “shelters” that KILL dogs using state funding. GH racing takes care of its own and deserves to be left alone. DO NOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE LOSS OF THE BREED – AND THE EUTHANASIA OF THOUSANDS OF GREYHOUNDS – as it will fall on your shoulders if the racing is stopped in Florida. There will be no way for owners to feed / house the dogs and no way for the adoption groups to absorb that number of dogs retiring at one time. STOP 67!!!

  • Mary

    March 2, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    Proposal 88 will guarantee basic human rights to residents of Florida’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Who opposes this?!

Comments are closed.


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