In a proposal drawing heavy fire from local governments, a Senate committee Tuesday approved a measure that could lead to cities and counties facing lawsuits because of decisions that lead to reduced revenue or profits for businesses.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-4 to back the proposal (SB 620), which would allow businesses to sue if local ordinances cause at least 15 percent losses of revenue or profits. The bill would apply to businesses that have been operating for at least three years.
Sponsor Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, said the requirements of at least 15 percent losses and three years in business create a “pretty high threshold.” He said the bill would give the businesses an avenue to recover revenue.
“It’s to give the businesses that may be hard-working and can’t show up at the county council or the county commission that are getting affected what, I think, is severely 15 percent … they’re getting hammered by an ordinance and right now, the government’s just saying, ‘Sorry this is what we’re doing,’” Hutson said.
But Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine, a former state senator, said the bill would have a “chilling effect” on the ability of local officials to address concerns of residents and would drive up costs.
“This bill, in essence, takes away our legislative powers — what we’re voted to do, just like you are, to take care of local problems,” Constantine said to senators.
The proposal came after years of lawmakers considering — and often passing — bills to take away decision-making powers from local governments on everything from ride-sharing services to regulation of sunscreen. The so-called “preemption” bills have often been prompted by specific local situations.
With his bill, Hutson said he wants to curb preemption fights in the Legislature and have disputes resolved at the local level. The bill is modeled after a longstanding state law known as the Bert J. Harris Private Property Rights Protection Act, which allows property owners to file lawsuits if government decisions have “inordinately burdened” property use.
The bill drew support Tuesday from groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Retail Federation and Americans for Prosperity-Florida. But it drew opposition from groups such as the Florida Association of Counties, the Florida League of Cities, the Florida AFL-CIO and Sierra Club Florida.
Wakulla County Commissioner Ralph Thomas, president of the Florida Association of Counties, said the measure would force counties to settle lawsuits and pay attorney fees and would “redistribute taxpayer dollars.”
“I think this bill is ripe for causing more problems than solutions,” said Thomas, who described himself as a lifelong small-government Republican.
Sen. Tina Polsky, a Boca Raton Democrat who opposed the bill, said she is concerned about local governments being the “bogeyman for everything” and that they “are not about hampering businesses.”
“Basically, this bill is just a carte blanche ability to sue local government over something that a business doesn’t like,” Polsky said.
Hutson and other supporters said the bill, which is filed for the 2022 legislative session, could undergo changes. But Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said the bill is about the “principle of taking” by governments, and people should have recourse in such situations.
“I love the spirit of the bill,” Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, said. “We’re a big state. We have hundreds of jurisdictions that make decisions, and sometimes they get it wrong.”
–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida
Michael Cocchiola says
This is one-party rule at its worst. We are tilting toward the marginalization – even the evisceration – of county commissions and city councils. So much for local governing and in fact democracy.
Art Schwartz says
A contribution to the Guaranteed Annual Income Scheme for lawyers!
Ray W. says
Old legal phrases:
If a town can afford one lawyer, it can afford two.
If both litigants are upset when they leave a mediation proceeding after settling the case, it was a successful mediation.
On a more serious note, Art Schwartz is right and wrong at the same time. If ordinary people could resolve their own disputes, we would need far fewer number of lawyers. But ordinary people just can’t resolve their own disputes, for a variety of reasons. Thus, there will always be plenty of work for lawyers. Don’t blame lawyers for human nature.
Let’s see–The Trumpers have made voting a lot more difficult, they want to get rid of election workers and put their own people in to be able to adjust the vote in favor of Republicans, punish cities, towns and anybody who doesn’t agree with Rep wishes. They are trying to govern our local school libraries, they are thinking about making voting for school committee members a PARTISAN election because they dared to disagree with DeSantis on some issues, and Hutson wants to make it possible for businesses to be able to sue cities and towns if they lose business. They are trying to take away a woman’s right to choose. The Republican regime wants to take over the country, etc. and it’s happening right under our nose. Wake up and make yourself very aware of this and vote accordingly because you might just wind up living life with leadership regime that allows you to have no say, or very little say and rights about anything.
Hmm. Not capitalism. Not small government. These GOP nuts are off the wall they don’t even support their own rhetoric.
You’re usually incisive and accurate. I must disagree that this isn’t capitalism:
IT is totally unregulated capitalism. Hereditary wealth capitalism (see also, feudalism.) Libertarian party anarcho-capitalism.
This is about the feudal lords, country squires (and bumpkins too) of floriduh developing vast privately held agricultural lands owned by land barons, churches, etc.. And public lands too, whenever these slobs like. Big oil, for one example, doesn’t own oil fields, it leases them — from private owners and/or the rest of us. Big oil gets the gold, we the suckers get the shaft, e.g.:
These pricks aren’t satisfied with more money than God has, they demand to be excused from any rules or responsibility for anything. They shamelessly call anyone who notices their crimes of being a criminal for noticing.
This IS the murder of small d democracy. Period.
Now, to the usual suspects: enjoy your second childhood while you sit on your butt, fondle your guns and wait for Jesus and trump.
If you folks put as much energy into the fact that CHINA wants to control everything. Look at what they are doing today around the world today. Look at how it effects all of us and take some sort of action, maybe then China might get the message and realize this republic we have is unbreakable. We are the greatest country in the world!!!
Lets act like it.