Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
May 18, 2017 4:13 p.m.
Thanks to strong lobbying efforts from cities, counties and citizens, many of the Florida Legislature’s attempts to undercut home rule powers of local government failed to pass during the 2017 Legislative Session.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/stateroundup/florida-legislature-2017-what-passed-and-what-failed/2323573 State legislators filed about 1,900 bills in the 2017 session. Both the House and Senate chambers passed only 12.6 percent, or 234 bills. The legislature failed to take away powers from local government in the following matters:
- PLASTIC BAGS (FAILED): Allows cities to regulate or ban use of disposable plastic bags (SB 162/HB 93)
- LOCAL MEETINGS (FAILED): Would allow one-on-one meetings of two local elected officials to discuss public business — except for committing to formal action or discussing public spending — and eliminates the requirement that such meetings be noticed and made open to the public. (HB 843 / SB 1004)
- VACATION RENTALS (FAILED): Prevents cities and counties from passing new regulations on vacation rentals of private homes such as those offered through Airbnb and HomeAway, and voids restrictions passed after June 1, 2011. (HB 425/SB188)
- BUSINESS REGULATION (FAILED): Repeals local government regulations in 2020 and requires they seek legislative approval for new ordinances that affect businesses. (HB 17)
- SANCTUARY CITIES (FAILED): Bans communities from being “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants by resisting compliance with federal immigration detention requests. Imposes penalties on communities and elected officials that attempt to thwart ban. (HB 697 / SB 786)
Actions that passed both houses and now await action from Governor Scott include:
- ATTORNEY FEES (PASSED): Allows judges to refuse attorneys fees in public records lawsuits if the judge determines they are “frivolous” cases or those intending to draw high legal fees from government entities. (SB 80)
- HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION (PASSED): Asks voters, in a 2018 ballot initiative, if they support increasing the homestead exemption on primary residences from $50,000 to $75,000. (HB 7105/SB 1774)
- WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY (PASSED): Limits local governments from regulating types of equipment known as “small wireless facilities” in public rights of ways that are used for new 5G wireless technology. (HB 687)The Florida League of Cities is urging the governor to veto the wireless technology bill. See letter below:
Depending on the Governor’s actions, there could be grave implications for local government financing with the proposal to provide an additional $25,000 Homestead Exemption for homes valued over $100,000, should the voters approve a referendum in 2018. Cash strapped cities and counties may be forced to increase millage rates to recoup the revenue loss.
Governor Scott has already signed HB 221 into law, meaning that local governments are forbidden to regulate ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft. It remains to be seen what effect this new law will have on local taxi services.
The City of Fernandina Beach anxiously awaits news on whether the Governor will preserve or veto the $500,000 approved for stormwater improvement work along the waterfront downtown.
Scott, whose own priorities were largely ignored by the Legislature in fashioning this budget is being urged by some to veto the entire budget. Scott has reminded people that he has the right to veto all or part of the $83 Billion Budget.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.