By Caden DeLisa
The Capitolist
March 11, 2022

 

The Florida House passed Senate Bill 620 by a margin of 69-45 on Wednesday, sending the controversial measure that would allow businesses to file lawsuits against local governments to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The bill, which has drawn criticism from both organizations and lawmakers, would allow businesses to sue cities and counties if passed local regulation results in at least a demonstrable 15 percent loss of profits.

“If we let this bill pass, how many frivolous lawsuits will there be?” Said Rep. Dianne Hart. “There is a belief that this bill will have unintended consequences. This bill will likely have a chilling effect on local government’s ability to enact meaningful, popular legislation when we really need to be able to put forth regulation in our municipalities. For that reason, I vote no.”

Rep. Angela Nixon proposed an amendment that would also open the state to lawsuits if the Legislature passed measures that damage businesses, though the amendment filing was struck down on Tuesday.

Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin, in support of the bill through an anecdote of a gym owner in South Miami that was given upwards of 80 noise complaint citations after city commissioners suddenly changes the regulations on noise control.

“A group of neighbors, maybe 4 or 5 of them, went to their city commissioner and pushed for an ordinance changing the noise regulation from 100 feet [from the location of the business] to 0 feet. The owner told me about multiple occasions where he would have city inspectors hiding in bushes with noise detection machines, and they’d jump out and yell ‘gotcha!” They ended up citing him with over 80 citations and $10,000 in fines for this guy and his business.”

The city of South Miami ultimately rolled back the fines, though the measure took an extended period of time and affected the profitability of the gym.

Supporters have dubbed the proposal the “Local Business Protection Act,” with Senate President Wilton Simpson, stating that the bill could help end preemption bills.

Florida TaxWatch spoke out against the SB 620, speaking in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee in January, arguing that the bill would hurt local economies.

“Florida is a state built for business success, with low taxes and leaders that focus on balancing economic growth with quality of life and community vibrancy,” said Florida TaxWatch CEO Dominic Calabro. “It does suffer, though, from a very litigious climate – earning us the distinction of “judicial hellhole”– and the proposal being considered here has real risks for making this worse and negatively impacting taxpayers.”

DeSantis is expected to sign the bill into law by the end of this week.

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Joseph Kayne
Joseph Kayne
2 months ago

Is anyone surprised the law does not include citizens suing the state? Maybe citizens should demand a constitutional amendment which requires any law or regulation directed at local goverments MUST also apply to the state.

Mark Tomes
Mark Tomes
2 months ago

Of all the dangerous, hateful, and stupid legislation passed this year, this one takes the cake. This is the ultimate preemption bill, stifling any meaningful regulation by cities and counties. Republicans, as usual, value money and profit over the good of communities.

Bill Fold
Bill Fold
2 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tomes

Not all Republicans. Six House Republicans joined most of the House Democrats to oppose the bill. Those Republicans were Reps. Thad Altman of Indialantic, Melony Bell of Fort Meade, Sam Killebrew of Winter Haven, Patt Maney of Shalimar, Jim Mooney of Islamorada, and David Smith of Winter Springs. Rep. Anika Omphroy, D-Lauderdale Lakes, voted for the bill.

Charles Loouk
Charles Loouk
2 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tomes

Not relevant to this particular comment, but I sometimes wonder if you are a real person, Mark. Every single comment is full of hate for Republicans. Kind of interesting considering the county voted over 80% Republican. There are places elsewhere that vote the opposite. I can’t help but think that your stress levels would lower and your happiness would increase if you moved to one of those places.

But to each their own. I’m sure if we were to meet in person we would have plenty of common ground to talk about and would get along just fine.

bob carter
bob carter
2 months ago

The problem being addressed is one that is found right here in Fernandina, as a business is permitted to open with current ordinances, and then the City decides to tighten the law just for this one business. Doesn’t seem fair to change the rules in the middle of a game, especially when opening and running a business is so hard and so expensive.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner
2 months ago

Incredibly dumb – or another attempt to bring down any ability of a community – not a business – to determine it’s future. “Lord of the flies” on legal steroids.

Bill Fold
Bill Fold
2 months ago

Faced with widespread opposition, Senate sponsors amended the bill, limiting when businesses may file lawsuits and providing options for the city or county to avoid paying damages by doing one of three things:

Repeal the offending ordinance.
Amend the ordinance in a way that removes the offending provision.
Grant the business a hardship waiver, which would be determined by the local government.
After the change, the Florida League of Cities, which had opposed the original bill, announced it was neutral.
(Credit:The Tampa Bay Times)

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