Opponents worry a bill in the Florida legislature would give one person power to stop a local rule
Local activists are decrying a bill they say would let one person reverse the work of local communities. The measure requires local governments to conduct business impact estimates for new ordinances and creates an automatic stay if a lawsuit is filed.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Robert Brackett (R-Vero Beach) said the measure protects Floridians against what he calls “unreasonable and arbitrary” rules.
As a former mayor, Brackett said he understands the needs of local government adding that the bill's goal isn’t to stop local governments from doing anything, it’s to add an extra level of oversight and transparency.
“ As a mayor, I needed to be held accountable to my constituents," Brackett said. "If we passed something on my dais that was poor, was unreasonable, unnecessary or arbitrary then we needed to be held accountable and that’s what this does.”
The bill includes a list of carveouts such as ordinances relating to fire or building codes, growth management and emergency ordinances among others.
But Jackson Oberlink with the group Florida Rising said that leaves a lot of important issues that would be impacted by the bill.
“Essential local policy making such as new or amendment noise ordinances, food safety permits, vacation rentals, parking regulations and waste management could all be litigated. Local animal welfare laws such as puppy mill regulations could be impacted. Things that address the rising cost of living, consumer protections and serve working people could all be stopped by one bad actor or a team of corporate lawyers,” Oberlink said.
That’s a concern Rich Templin with the AFLCIO raised as well. He said local unions are often involved in working with local governments to make positive change, but he said the bill lawmakers are considering would let just one person stop a project from moving forward.
“Some dude sitting back in the corner, didn’t even participate in the process, doesn’t even live in the community, doesn’t like it says now that you’ve had your photo op and your press conference about this great ordinance I’m going to go down to the courthouse, write a check for $400 and file suit. And so now what happens? That ordinance is gone. That one dude vetoed all of the work that the community came together to do," Templin said.
The Florida Association of Counties has voiced support for the bill. It’s similar to one vetoed last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis that would have let businesses collect damages if a local ordinance hurt that business’ bottom line. In his veto letter, DeSantis said that bill was too broad and could have unintended consequences. He recommended that the legislature should instead pass “targeted preemption legislation.”