The Florida Senate could quickly pass a proposal that would bolster legal challenges to city and county ordinances, with supporters saying it would help small businesses and opponents contending it would hamper local governments.
The Senate Rules Committee on Thursday unanimously approved the proposal (SB 170), positioning it to be heard by the full Senate after the annual legislative session starts March 7.
Perhaps the most-controversial part of the bill would require local governments to suspend enforcement of ordinances while lawsuits play out. Also, plaintiffs who successfully challenge ordinances in court could receive up to $50,000 for attorney fees and costs.
Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Eustis, pointed to local proposals that can be the “death knell” for small businesses.
“It is emergency time when you realize, ‘If this goes through, I’m gone,’” said Baxley, a funeral director and former mayor of Belleview. “And the people I’m (serving), they won’t be served by me. I won’t be able to.”
But the bill drew opposition from environmental, labor and LGBTQ-advocacy groups and some local governments, including Miami-Dade County and Broward County. In part, critics said cities and counties would face increased threats of litigation if they move forward on issues.
“What about people that are concerned with environmental issues, social-justice issues, fair-working-conditions issues?” Florida AFL-CIO lobbyist Rich Templin said. “All of those issues are now essentially going to be preempted when this bill passes.”
The Senate passed a similar bill during the 2022 legislative session, but the measure was not approved by the House. While some local governments expressed opposition to this year’s bill during Thursday’s committee meeting, the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties said they supported it.
Rebecca O’Hara, a lobbyist for the Florida League of Cities, described the bill, sponsored by Sen. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, as a “highly negotiated product.”
Under current law, people and businesses can file lawsuits challenging ordinances and seek injunctions. But until judges rule on the injunctions, the ordinances can be in effect.
But the bill would require local governments to suspend enforcement of ordinances that are challenged on grounds that they are barred by the state Constitution or are “arbitrary or unreasonable.” The bill would call on judges to give priority to disputes about suspended ordinances and “render a preliminary or final decision on the validity of the ordinance as expeditiously as possible.”
In addition to that change and the possibility of plaintiffs recouping at least a portion of their attorney fees, the bill would require local governments to provide a “business impact estimate” before passing many types of ordinances.
“I do believe that this bill will help streamline some of the processes for local governments and give citizens a fundamental right to level the playing field for those trapped in litigation over arbitrary and unreasonable local laws,” Trumbull said.
Haley Busch, outreach director for the environmental and growth-management group 1000 Friends of Florida, said she appreciates small businesses, but “every local government can’t make every business happy all the time, and that’s what makes policymaking messy (and) requires a democratic iterative process at the local level.”
“Senate Bill 170 sidesteps this process and is a top-down approach handicapping our local governments,” Busch said.
–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida
@Caution!!! Elected Republican Kochsuckers at work
Even bad card players can smell this shit:
We need to vote these power-hungry atrocities out of office.
This is, and has been, and attempt to override ordinances set by the local governments and leaving taxpayers with no say in their areas. Any business can plop right down in the middle of your neighborhood, and sue you if you don’t like it. This is a hostile takeover of local governments by the current administration of the state. Your town, city or county would lose its ability to govern according to local needs. It’s like saying Miami, Belle Glade, Key West and Apalachicola, you do not know your town’s people or their needs, so now Big Daddy will give you the rule to follow. If you don’t like it, you taxpayers will pay for any disagreements, and those lawsuits can come from multi-billion dollar corporations! This has very little to do with “small businesses.”
Deborah Coffey says
““I do believe that this bill will help streamline some of the processes for local governments and give citizens a fundamental right to level the playing field for those trapped in litigation over arbitrary and unreasonable local laws,” Trumbull said.”
OMG…because Ron DeSantis and the Republican Legislature have NEVER trapped citizens over arbitrary and unreasonable laws!
People, we’ve got to get Democrats to take over Florida…and fast…before there’s absolutely nothing left of it. Next thing you know, they’ll be inviting loser Putin here to run the state when he’s thrown out of Russia.
Ellen Kincaid says
Sounds like sidestepping local ordinances makes local government a lame-duck against any person or company that would benefit or any person with an axe to grind, without first ensuing the situation through the safety of our legal system. This will create a free for all of law suits, wasting local time and funding since it stops the ordinance dead in its tracks.
Immediately, I can see big companies like Airbnb and Vrbo bringing a lawsuit against “no rent ” ordinances in residential and non-commercial neighborhood. Goodbye to your neighborhoods, which you did your due diligence to purchase in, while the law suits allow them to immediately fill any residence with stranger while the law suits drag on and on and on…..
This is an overreach of government and just the tip of the iceberg!
Ellen: And guess what? These politicians claim this will help small businesses, but I recently got this tidbit in my email:
“Hey everyone! This is a story that needs to be heard here. This wonderful family already going through so much, was just recently sued by an Airbnb behind her place of business on Indian Rocks Beach, FL. Her CrossFit Gym was there open and running before the property was even converted into a STR. They recently SUED her for her gym being an annoyance to their property. Well, the Airbnb won. during all of this time the family has been dealing with her now husbands cancer returning. Most of the money went to fighting this AirBNB law suit with them now needing help with covering cancer treatments. This is a real thing. A real problem here. These small beach towns are going from nice residential neighborhoods to short term rental properties. This is just the beginning. Now they are attacking businesses and local business owners!”
Renner and Hutson are busy getting rid of our rights to govern our own cities and towns supposedly to help small businesses by giving them a “level playing field” yet these huge, world wide corporations can sue the town and/or homeowners. It doesn’t just apply to short term rentals, either. Any type of business, desirable or undesirable can move right in next door. HOAs will not be exempt. If any readers here live in an HOA, please bring this to attention to your board members.