New Florida Bill Gives Businesses Power to Challenge Local Ordinances
Florida Senate President, Kathleen Passidomo, has successfully introduced a new bill that permits businesses to halt city ordinances and sue if they deem them “arbitrary” or “unreasonable” for a period of 90 days after they are put into place. The bill, HB 1515 and SB 170, stipulates that counties and cities must provide a business impact estimate before passing an ordinance. The proposed legislation has been hailed as a powerful tool to end the preemption battle which typically takes place in Tallahassee. However, detractors are concerned about the impact the legislation will have on city and county management. Democrats, who oppose the bill, argue that it does not offer a definition of what is “arbitrary” and “unreasonable.” They warn that it could permit a single business to overthrow local ordinances to prohibit wage theft, puppy mills, lighting restrictions, and other ordinances aimed at protecting communities. They suggest that this law could even have an impact on the ability of cities to regulate strip clubs and drag shows, and impose noise restrictions in neighborhoods.
Last year, Passidomo’s idea won the reluctant support of the Florida Association of Counties and the Florida League of Cities, because it was less punitive than the measure that Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, was advancing. Under Simpson’s bill, SB 620, taxpayers would have been required to pay damages if a local government ordinance resulted in a business losing 15% of its revenue. However, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the Simpson bill, citing costly litigation and the “unintended and unforeseen consequences” it would lead to.
This year, lawmakers revived Passidomo’s idea, which has the support of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Retail Federation, and the Florida Association of Home Builders. However, individual counties and cities, including Miami-Dade County, have expressed opposition. The bill provides that taxpayers will be responsible for defending any legal challenge, and that if the business loses the lawsuit, it will pay its own legal fees, but it does not have to reimburse taxpayers for the local government legal fees.