Thursday, November 23, 2017
Politics

House committee approves bill to phase out dog racing

RECOMMENDED READING


TALLAHASSEE — The calm in the lobbyist-packed committee room belied the intensity of the behind-the-scenes battle under way to end the House of Representatives' resistance to gambling expansion.

Before the Finance and Tax Committee met, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli added a legislator to help pass the bill that opens the door to slot machines in Palm Beach and Lee counties, destination resorts in Miami-Dade and Broward, and the phasing out of greyhound racing across the state.

As the vote looked close, lobbyists quietly met in the corner of the meeting room with Rep. Hazelle Rogers, attempting to get the Lauderhill Democrat to end her opposition to the bill.

In the end, a last-minute switch by Republican Rep. John Tobia of Melbourne Beach to support the bill, and a decision by Rep. Frank Artiles to miss the vote, brought HB 1233 to victory.

The vote was 10-8 in favor of what could be the most expansive rewrite of Florida's gaming laws in a decade, since voters authorized slot machines.

It opens the door to expanding slots at the Palm Beach Kennel Club and the Flagler Race Track in Naples, if agreed to by the Seminole Tribe in a legislatively approved compact. It requires injury reporting for dog tracks that continue to race. And it requires Miami-Dade and Broward to conduct a non-binding referendum or a vote of the county commission before the Legislature can approve destination resort casinos.

It was a dramatic turn for a chamber where gaming bills have gone to die in recent years. The bill is next expected to go to the full House but faces steep hurdles in the Senate, which is awaiting a vote on its version of gambling expansion — a plan that would also extend the compact with the Seminole Tribe for one year.

Most important for the author of the House bill, Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, is the provision that "decouples" the requirement that greyhound tracks continue to operate a minimum number of races in order to offer the more lucrative poker rooms or slots casinos. The bill also includes a requirement that requires tracks to report all dog injuries.

"On behalf of the thousands of racing greyhounds that are bred and live their lives to do nothing but run around a circle with no one watching, vote for this bill," Young told her colleagues.

There are only 20 active dog tracks left in the United States and Florida is home to 12 of them. The industry runs about 4,000 races a year and state records show that a dog dies every three days because of racing-related injuries.

But by removing the racing mandate from greyhound tracks but not offering a similar benefit to horse tracks, the measure drew opposition from other racinos in South Florida.

"This is a very special interest bill,'' said Donn Mitchell, chief administrative officer for the Isle of Capri, which owns Pompano Park Race Course and Casino. "Don't legislatively pick winners and losers,'' Mitchell said.

Rogers tried and failed to pass an amendment to the bill that would have removed the requirement for horse track and jai alai operations to continue live racing and games and operate their slots permits alone.

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee said Tuesday that he expects little progress on any gaming legislation this session until the Seminole compact is re-negotiated.

"Absent an agreement to extend the compact, I don't see Senate taking up any of these bills piecemeal," he said.

But Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat, said the biggest change in the House bill was the effort to phase out dog racing.

"This is a battle of morals and for me the moral is that I don't think the government indirectly and unintentionally should mandate animal cruelty because that's what's happening," he said.

Animal activists who want to end dog racing aren't taking any chances. Starting Tuesday, Grey2K USA launched an aggressive email and phoning campaign urging their supports to appeal to lawmakers to pass the bill. 

Contact Mary Ellen Klas at [email protected] Follow @MaryEllenKlas.

Comments
President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump has a Thanksgiving Day message for the nation: Look at all I’ve done. Trump is telling followers in an early-morning holiday tweet that, "your Country is starting to do really well." He says: Jobs are "coming back,...
Updated: 11 hours ago
As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

Lys Isma was born in Haiti, but she’s used to driving in Miami with a license, going to college and living without fear of being deported.The Florida International University biology student has lived in Florida since she was 9 months old. Undocument...
Published: 11/22/17

Top Trump staffers failed to file financial reports on their way out the door

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top aides — including chief of staff Reince Priebus and foreign policy adviser Sebastian Gorka — failed to file legally required financial reports after they were dismissed this summer, according to government re...
Published: 11/22/17
William March: Lee says lieutenant governor should work for a living and get a vote

William March: Lee says lieutenant governor should work for a living and get a vote

It’s an old joke that Florida’s lieutenant governor, with no duties specified in the state Constitution except to fill in if the governor is disabled or dies, has little to do except monitor the governor’s health. State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, ...
Published: 11/22/17
Trump calls father of freed UCLA player an ‘ungrateful fool’

Trump calls father of freed UCLA player an ‘ungrateful fool’

Associated PressPALM BEACH — President Donald Trump started off his first day of Thanksgiving vacation by resuming his taunts of the father of a UCLA basketball player detained for shoplifting in China, saying Wednesday that he was an "ungrateful foo...
Published: 11/22/17
Trump speaks up for Moore, warns against his ‘liberal’ rival

Trump speaks up for Moore, warns against his ‘liberal’ rival

WASHINGTON — Silent for more than a week, President Donald Trump all but endorsed embattled Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, discounting the sexual assault allegations against him and insisting repeatedly that voters must not support Moor...
Published: 11/22/17
Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to offer support to Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, saying the former state judge "totally denies" allegations that he sexually molested underage girls years ago."He d...
Published: 11/21/17
Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott’s tourism chiefs at Visit Florida spend a lot of public money taking trips to exotic places to promote Florida as a top worldwide destination.Four former top-level staff members at the state’s tourism promotion and its c...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A second woman has accused Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching.Lindsay Menz tells CNN that Franken placed his hand on her bottom as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, two years into Fran...
Published: 11/20/17
Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

TAMPA — A week ahead of the expected vote on a controversial tax reform bill, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., visited Tampa to deliver a message to small businesses: This bill will hurt you."Small businesses are the economic engine of F...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/20/17