Florida HB 997 / SB 1322: Miami-Dade commissioners make move to derail bill

Please contact the bill sponsors and ask them not to stop the progress of HB 997 / SB 1322.
HB 997 filed by Rep Carlos Trujillo, carlos.trujillo@myfloridahouse.gov
SB 1322 filed by Senator Jim Norman, norman.jim.web@flsenate.gov

Florida HB 997 / SB 1322 are very simple bills that would repeal Miami-Dade County’s breed ban. The state law prohibits Florida municipalities from passing BSL or breed bans, but makes an exception for Miami-Dade’s long-standing breed ban. Florida HB 997 / SB 1322 deletes the single sentence in state law that creates the exception for Miami-Dade. If the bills passed, the county would be required to repeal their breed ban.

The two bills have been moving along their respective sides of the state legislature and appear to have a high chance of passing.

Miami-Dade County commissioners are not pleased. The majority of commissioners (though not all of them) support the breed ban and have not responded to public requests to re-examine the ban or consider repeal.

The county commissioners have now approached Rep. Trujillo, who is the sponsor of HB 997, and asked him to withdraw the bill if they put the issue to a binding public vote (meaning, the commissioners must do whatever the public decides via the ballot). The commissioners are looking into putting the issue on the ballot for August elections.

We have strong concerns about putting the Miami-Dade breed ban to a public vote. These are the same reasons why commissioners, who want to keep the ban, prefer a public vote over legislative action.

  • The general public knows very little about dogs, public safety, and the data around breed-specific laws. The public will likely rely on opinions and emotions, rather than logic, when voting on the issue.
  • “Majority rules” votes can just as easily reinforce discrimination against minority groups (e.g. “pit bull” owners), especially when those minority groups are heavily negatively stereotyped. In communities with BSL, the public tends to have stronger negative stereotypes because they have almost no positive exposure to the banned dogs and their owners.
  • Miami-Dade officials and news media outlets are generally supportive of the breed ban. They can and do influence public opinion.
  • It is not difficult to write a loaded/biased poll question. Consider the difference between “Should Miami-Dade keep its ban on pit bulls?” and “Should Miami-Dade stop discriminating against dog owners?”

HB 997 / SB 1322 remove much of the above concerns. Experts and specialists can testify before legislators, giving them data and facts on which to base their votes. Citizens who are informed and concerned can contact their legislators and express their wishes as well. Minority groups have a stronger voice in the process and are less subject to stereotype from their representatives. The legislators are also coming out of communities across the state and have been able to have a variety of both positive and negative experiences with the minority groups, giving them a broader picture and understanding of the state law’s effects.

Miami-Dade County officials claim that there is a bigger issue at play: “home rule” and their desire to make laws within their own boundaries, rather than have to play by the state’s rules. We feel that this is a red herring argument, designed to distract attention away from the breed ban. If Miami-Dade has “home rule,” it does not need an exception written into state law to allow it to keep its breed ban. HB 997 / SB 1322 are not a threat to home rule.

Please contact the bill sponsors and respectfully ask them not to stop the progress of HB 997 / SB 1322, no matter what kind of “deal” they are offered.
HB 997 filed by Rep Carlos Trujillo, carlos.trujillo@myfloridahouse.gov
SB 1322 filed by Senator Jim Norman, norman.jim.web@flsenate.gov
Miami-Dade commissioners are offering the legislature a bad deal that shows disrespect to state law and state lawmakers, and has the potential to perpetuate discrimination against dog owners within the county.

Online petition to Rep Trujillo (if you sign, please sign IN ADDITION TO sending an email/calling Trujillo directly–emails/phone calls are very important): http://www.change.org/petitions/rep-carlos-trujillo-florida-house-of-representatives-stand-firm-behind-house-bill-997

You may also contact the Miami-Dade commissioners, but it is unclear what effect that would have on their attempts to stop the breed ban repeal.

The Miami Herald has a very thorough news article here:

Ask voters if they want to repeal county pit-bull ban, Miami-Dade committee says

Some Miami-Dade commissioners said the county’s pit-bull ban should go on the August ballot — a surprise move intended to keep state lawmakers from overturning the prohibition.


[…] Diaz and Commissioner Esteban Bovo, a former state lawmaker, sent text messages during the committee meeting to Trujillo, who indicated from Tallahassee that he would stop pushing his bill if commissioners follow through on putting the pit-bull ban to voters. […]

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/02/14/2641623/ask-voters-if-they-want-to-repeal.html#storylink=cpy#storylink=cpy

3 responses to “Florida HB 997 / SB 1322: Miami-Dade commissioners make move to derail bill

  1. Why even HAVE A LAW that u can’t ban a breed if all Ur gonna do is “make an exception” for miami-dade? Typical politics.

    • The FL state law exception was written broadly to apply to any municipality that had long-standing BSL (BSL passed before October 1, 1990). This was to appease opponents when the state prohibition against BSL was being pushed through. It’s the same principle we see behind any kind of grandfather clause, really.

      Neither the current state law nor HB 997/SB 1322 singles out Miami-Dade in any way—the county singled themselves out by being the only remaining municipality still clinging to the grandfather clause to justify their breed ban.

  2. UGH! I have been doing everything to urge Rep. Trujillo to keep the bill going. A public vote in Miami-Dade is not what we need and the lawmakers excuses are ridiculous. The entire state is affected by MDC’s BSL therefore it shouldn’t only be left up to Miami-Dade residents. From the Miami Herald ::(http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/02/14/2641623/ask-voters-if-they-want-to-repeal.html#storylink=cpy)
    “We cannot allow the armor to take kinks in it,” Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, the committee chairman, said, referring to protecting the county’s powers. “We should be dealing with this internally.”