Racing Ass'n of Central Iowa v. Fitzgerald

Decision Date03 February 2004
Docket NumberNo. 01-0011.,01-0011.
Citation675 N.W.2d 1
PartiesRACING ASSOCIATION OF CENTRAL IOWA, Iowa Greyhound Association, Dubuque Racing Association, Ltd., and Iowa West Racing Association, Appellants, v. Michael FITZGERALD, Treasurer, State of Iowa, Appellee.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Mark McCormick, Thomas L. Flynn, and Edward M. Mansfield of Belin Lamson McCormick Zumbach Flynn, a Professional Corporation, Des Moines, for appellant Racing Association of Central Iowa.

Gerald Crawford and Brad Schroeder of The Crawford Law Firm, Des Moines, for appellant Iowa Greyhound Association.

Stephen C. Krumpe of O'Connor & Thomas, P.C., Dubuque, for appellant Dubuque Racing Association, Ltd.

Lawrence P. McLellan of Sullivan & Ward, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant Iowa West Racing Association.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Jeffrey D. Farrell and Jean M. Davis, Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee.

TERNUS, Justice.

When this case was initially before our court, we held that a statute taxing gross gambling receipts generated at racetracks at a rate nearly twice the rate imposed on gross gambling receipts generated on riverboats violated the United States Constitution and the Iowa Constitution. See Racing Ass'n v. Fitzgerald, 648 N.W.2d 555, 562 (Iowa 2002)

(reversing district court's summary judgment for the State) [hereinafter "RACI"]. On certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, that part of our decision holding the statute violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution was reversed. See Fitzgerald v. Racing Ass'n, 539 U.S. 103, ___, 123 S.Ct. 2156, 2161, 156 L.Ed.2d 97, 105 (2003). The Supreme Court then remanded the case "for further proceedings not inconsistent with [its] opinion." Id. Although this court's ruling that the statute also violated the equality provision contained in the Iowa Constitution was not reviewed by the Supreme Court, id. at ___, 123 S.Ct. at 2159,

156 L.Ed.2d at 102, we take the opportunity on remand to reconsider our prior decision on the state constitution claim in light of the Court's ruling on the federal constitution issue.

After giving due consideration to the Court's analysis and decision, we find no basis to change our earlier opinion that the differential tax violates article I, section 6 of the Iowa Constitution. Therefore, we reverse the trial court's contrary ruling and remand this case for a determination of the appropriate relief.

I. Review of Pertinent Background Facts and Proceedings.

This action was commenced by the appellant, Racing Association of Central Iowa (RACI), to enjoin the collection of that portion of taxes it was required to pay on adjusted gross receipts from gambling in excess of the tax charged to "excursion boats" on such receipts. See generally 1989 Iowa Acts ch. 67 (authorizing gambling on "excursion boats"). RACI claimed the tax was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clauses of the United States and Iowa Constitutions.

RACI operates a pari-mutuel horse racetrack and casino known as Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona, Iowa. Appellant, Dubuque Racing Association, Ltd., which intervened in RACI's lawsuit, operates a pari-mutuel dog racetrack and casino known as Dubuque Greyhound Park and Casino in Dubuque, Iowa. Another intervenor, appellant Iowa West Racing Association, holds the gaming license and owns the slot machines for Bluffs Run Racetrack and Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The fourth appellant, Iowa Greyhound Association, intervened to protect the interests of its members, greyhound owners who race at the Dubuque and Council Bluffs dog tracks.

The tax statute challenged by these parties is Iowa Code section 99F.11 (1999), which imposes a tax "on the adjusted gross receipts received annually from gambling games." The maximum rate is twenty percent. See Iowa Code § 99F.11. The statute has an exception, however, for the "adjusted gross receipts ... from gambling games at racetrack enclosures." Id. The tax rate on racetrack gambling receipts began at twenty-two percent in 1997, and has automatically increased by two percent each year to a maximum rate of thirty-six percent in 2004. See id.

In our first consideration of this case, we held this differential tax violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and article I, section 6 of the Iowa Constitution. See RACI, 648 N.W.2d at 562.1 As already mentioned, the United States Supreme Court reversed our decision to the extent it rested on federal constitutional grounds. See Fitzgerald, 539 U.S. at ___, 123 S.Ct. at 2161, 156 L.Ed.2d at 105. It did not, however, consider the legality of the differential tax rates under the Iowa Constitution. Thus, the case was remanded "for further proceedings not inconsistent with [the Court's] opinion." Id.

Notwithstanding the fact the Supreme Court did not discuss the validity of the statute under the Iowa Constitution, we find it appropriate to reconsider our ruling on the state constitution claim since our court applied the federal rational basis test in determining whether the tax violated the Iowa Constitution. See RACI, 648 N.W.2d at 558. Thus, we again address, in light of the Court's certiorari ruling on the federal claim, whether section 99F.11 violates the Iowa equality provision. See generally Chicago & N.W. Ry. v. Fachman, 255 Iowa 989, 996, 125 N.W.2d 210, 214 (1963)

(labeling article I, section 6 of the Iowa Constitution the "`equality' provision"); Sperry & Hutchinson Co. v. Hoegh, 246 Iowa 9, 19, 65 N.W.2d 410, 416 (1954) (same). Before doing so, however, we consider the effect of the Court's decision on our analysis.

II. Import of Supreme Court's Decision that Statute Did Not Violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.

It is this court's constitutional obligation as the highest court of this sovereign state to determine whether the challenged classification violates Iowa's constitutional equality provision. Callender v. Skiles, 591 N.W.2d 182, 187 (Iowa 1999) (noting that while "we have deemed the federal and state ... equal protection clauses to be identical in scope, import, and purpose[,] ... it is the exclusive prerogative of our court to determine the constitutionality of Iowa statutes challenged under our own constitution"); Bierkamp v. Rogers, 293 N.W.2d 577, 581 (Iowa 1980) (noting that notwithstanding Supreme Court decision on issue, "[i]t is our constitutional obligation to determine whether the classifications drawn ... are violative of Article I, section 6, of our Constitution"); see William H. Rehnquist, The Supreme Court: How It was, How It Is 172 (1987) (stating "the question of the meaning of the Iowa Constitution is preeminently a question to be decided by the Supreme Court of Iowa, and not by some other court"); Robert F. Williams, Equality Guarantees in State Constitutional Law, 63 Tex. L.Rev. 1195, 1197 (1985) ("When faced with state constitutional equality claims, state courts should recognize their obligation to take these provisions seriously.") [hereinafter "State Equality Guarantees"]. While the Supreme Court's judgment on the constitutionality of Iowa's disparate tax rates under the federal Equal Protection Clause is persuasive, it is not binding on this court as we evaluate this law under the Iowa Constitution. See Callender, 591 N.W.2d at 187

; Bierkamp, 293 N.W.2d at 579.

Two methodologies have been identified for an independent analysis of state equal protection claims: "Under the first, the state court adopts the federal frame of analysis but applies those constructs independently. Under the second, courts reject the federal constructs and apply their own analytical frameworks." State Equality Guarantees, 63 Tex. L.Rev. at 1219 (footnote omitted). In determining the proper analysis here, it is appropriate to consider both methodologies.

A. Independent analysis. We begin with the second approach—applying an independently crafted analysis. Notwithstanding the broad statement made by this court in its initial opinion that we will apply the same analysis under the state equal protection provision as is applied under the federal Equal Protection Clause, this court has always reserved to itself the ability to employ a different analytical framework under state constitutional provisions. See, e.g., Bowers v. Polk County Bd. of Supervisors, 638 N.W.2d 682, 689 (Iowa 2002)

("We usually deem the federal and state equal protection clauses to be identical in scope, import, and purpose." (Emphasis added.)); In re Interest of C.P., 569 N.W.2d 810, 811 (Iowa 1997) ("Typically, we deem the federal and state due process and equal protection clauses to be identical in scope, import, and purpose." (Emphasis added.)); Krull v. Thermogas Co., 522 N.W.2d 607, 614 (Iowa 1994) ("In equal protection challenges based on the federal and Iowa Constitutions, we usually interpret both federal and state equal protection provisions the same." (Emphasis added.)); Exira Cmty. Sch. Dist. v. State, 512 N.W.2d 787, 792-93 (Iowa 1994) ("We usually deem the federal and state due process and equal protection clauses to be identical in scope, import, and purpose." (Emphasis added.)). The implication of these cases is that while we will generally apply the same analysis to federal and state equal protection claims, this court has not foreclosed the possibility that there may be situations where differences in the scope, import, or purpose of the two provisions warrant divergent analyses. See generally State Equality Provisions, 63 Tex. L.Rev. at 1207-08 (noting the distinction between federal equal protection and "Jacksonian [e]quality [p]rovisions").2

Despite this court's right to fashion its own test for examining claims brought under our state constitution, we do not think this case is the proper forum to consider an analysis that might be more compatible with Iowa's constitutional language. We decline to do so here because the racetracks did...

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