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Marion Hammer urges NRA members to oppose amendment banning greyhound racing

Amendment 13, which would ban greyhound racing in Florida, was preserved on the ballot earlier this month by the state Supreme Court.
Marion Hammer [COLIN HACKLEY for the Tampa Bay Times]
Marion Hammer [COLIN HACKLEY for the Tampa Bay Times]
Published Sep. 25, 2018
Updated Sep. 25, 2018

The National Rifle Association's chief lobbyist in Florida is urging members of the gun association to oppose a constitutional amendment that would ban greyhound racing, after a state Supreme Court ruling earlier this month upholding the amendment on the ballot.

The amendment, which would end commercial dog racing involving wagering by 2020, had been contested in court by the Florida Greyhound Association though the state's high court upheld its position on the ballot Sept. 7. Justices, in a 6-1 decision, rejected several arguments that alleged the ballot's summary and title were misleading to voters.

Critics of the amendment had argued, among other reasons, that its "fundamental value" statement — that "the humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people" — was not reflected in the ballot language that will appear before voters in November.

Hammer, in a missive to the NRA's membership list in Florida, singled out that language and accused the amendment of being "a front for much more."

Based on the "humane treatment" phrase in the language of the full amendment, she wrote, "extreme animal rights organizations will have a new constitutional standard to challenge any and all activities they find objectionable. In short, many suspect their first action will be to immediately begin work to ban all hunting and fishing."

"Absentee ballots will be going out soon and people need to know what you're voting for," she said by phone Tuesday. "Our members rely on us to evaluate these amendments and tell them how it will impact their rights."

But the state Supreme Court, in its ruling two weeks ago, asserted that "although prefatory language may aid a court to determine legislative intent when the operative terms of a provision of law are ambiguous, such language does no control interpretation of the operative terms of that provision."

"Amendment 13's fundamental value provision is devoid of any legislative or judicial mandate: it bestows no rights, imposes no duties, and does not empower the Legislature to take any action," the court added in its decision.

The Committee to Protect Dogs, one of the groups supporting the amendment, accused Hammer and the NRA of "attempts to swiftboat" the push to ban greyhound racing in the state.

"It's clear to me that they know they're going to lose," said Carey Theil, a senior advisor to the group's "Yes on 13" campaign. "They have decided to try and make the campaign about a bunch of things that Amendment 13 doesn't do."

"This was addressed by the Supreme Court nine days ago," he said. "You have the Supreme Court saying, 'No, no, no, that's not true."

The amendment, which was among three upheld by the state Supreme Court earlier this month, is the last to appear on the ballot before voters this year. To pass, any constitutional amendment requires 60 percent of the vote.