The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature loves to wield the heavy hammer of state government control over local jurisdictional home rule with state preemption bills. One of these bills fast-tracked for Senate approval is SB 170 Local Ordinances, which would empower business owners to sue cities and counties for ordinances that cause them financial losses. It passed its first committee and only has the Rules Committee left before going to the Senate floor. We need you to be proactive and contact the Senate Rules Committee members below AND your own legislators to tell them
you OPPOSE this bill.
Here are some talking points about home rule and reasons to vote against this bill. (Thanks to Krista Storey, our State Preemption Subject Leader for her input):
- Home rule is not a mere gratuity bestowed on the people of Florida by the Legislature or to be withheld upon the Legislature’s whim. The source is the 1968 Florida Constitutional Amendment, an expression of the will of the people, which gave all counties and cities equal access to home rule authority.
- Home rule is why no two cities or counties are alike. Community residents take pride in their diversity. Strong home rule powers ensure that local government can be responsive to the people it serves. Preemption of home rule undermines the constitutional right of citizens to govern themselves.
- Citizens expect various local services: water, sewer, garbage collection, stormwater systems, roads, sidewalks, fire protection, law enforcement, parks, and recreation. And citizens expect locally elected officials to exercise regulatory powers when necessary to protect public health and safety and to enact community standards specific to the city or county where they live. These expectations cannot be met if local government officials do not have the authority to respond to local needs and preferences or to address them in a timely manner.
- SB 170 mandates that a business impact statement must be filed before any ordinance can be adopted by a county or city. This is time-consuming and potentially expensive for local governments that already are financially strapped and limited on resources. It could delay/impede their ability to respond to the needs of their citizens. And yet, the bill’s impact statement by the Republican Legislature in its Staff Analysis states that the fiscal impact is “indeterminate at this time.” Funny how the Legislature does not hold itself to the same business impact standard that it proposes to apply to local governments,
which are businesses themselves as they procure and provide services, hire employees, and enter into contracts, among other things.
- SB 170 allows just one person or business plaintiff to object to an ordinance and sue the local jurisdiction, which can stop the ordinance in its tracks. The icing on the cake is that the bill proposes one-sided awards of attorney fees, costs, and damages paid by local taxpayers if the plaintiff prevails. But the business plaintiff does not need to repay the local jurisdiction if
the decision is successfully defended by the jurisdiction. This only encourages litigation at no risk to the party seeking to delay the ordinance — an ordinance deemed appropriate by the elected representatives of a community. Definitely a “lose-lose” proposition for local taxpayers.
- Bad actions by local governments are already actionable under existing law. There is no need to add to the statutory framework as proposed in SB 170. More government regulation does not always equate to better government.