Florida lawmakers are considering a legislative proposal that would permit businesses to sue local governments over ordinances or mandates that lead to a revenue loss of 15 percent or more. SB 280 would require local governments to do business impact analyses when considering imposing ordinances.

The bill has been dubbed as “a trial lawyer’s dream” and the “preemption to end all preemptions.”

“We’ve come up here year after year after year preempting local governments from various ordinances from a gauntlet… So how do you stop these preemption bills? Because we are the last line of defense,” said Sen. Travis Hutson (R-FL-7).

Hutson also mentioned that this bill can act as a last stand for Florida businesses in line with comments made by Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-FL-10) earlier in the week.

“At the same time, we are going to make sure that local citizens and businesses understand the impacts of your regulations by requiring you to provide fiscal impact statements for ordinances and referendums,” Simpson said. “We will also ensure that you pay legitimate businesses that are impacted by your takings.”

The Senate Committee on Community Affairs voted along party lines to advance the bill. Opponents said it would give businesses the ability to sue over any policy they would disagree with and delay the implementation of the ordinance. The lawsuit would automatically trigger a stay on the ordinance.

Florida State Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-FL-12) argued in favor of the bill saying the points being made in the opposition would make businesses out to be the bad guy.

“If you listen to most of the debate comments today from the audience, businesses are evil,” Baxley said. “And yet they’re asked to pay the bills. They’re paying the majority of the property taxes. Businesses are your friends. They’re the people who give your community life. But for them to have no recourse, no way to go, to demonstrate they’re being harmed in some way, I think is just unconscionable.”

One of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida’s lobbyists said one person could block an ordinance.

“If a simple individual can just file suit and then the county or city is compelled not to act on the lawfully passed ordinance that’s giving that individual a veto on what could have been a very popular majority-driven process,” said Rich Templin, lobbyist for ACLU Florida.

SB 280 has undergone major revisions which Templin said was a step in the right direction.

“Obviously you guys have taken some major steps, so…thanks for the hard work,” Templin said.

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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at the Florida Capital Star and the Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.
Photo “Dennis Baxley” by Dennis Baxley. Background Photo “Miami Skyline” by miamiphotography.