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Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Preemption bills moving in the Florida Legislature could pick up where last year's left off

The Florida Capital
christopher boswell/Christopher Boswell
The Florida Capital

The current law already sets a high bar, but this proposal would put even more limits on local government.

Another preemption bill is moving in the Florida Legislature. And this one adds to the restraints on local ordinances that were approved last year.

Under the new law, businesses can sue local governments over ordinances that hurt their bottom line. And local governments can’t enforce those rules while they’re being challenged in court. Businesses can challenge ordinances that have been overruled by the state—a process known as preemption. And plaintiffs who win their cases can receive up to $50,000 for attorney fees and costs.

The current law already sets a high bar, but Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure of Dover says it’s become necessary to put even more limits on local government.

“Unfortunately, since last session, we’ve seen some stuff that…relating to land use ordinances, and these actions may even infringe on some property rights," he said. "So, this bill goes to kind of cleaning that up from last year.”

McClure is the House sponsor of HB 1547, which would expand the current restrictions on local ordinances to include local land development rules, comprehensive planning amendments and zoning changes—all of which could also be put on hold while challenged. The measure passed the House Subcommittee on Local Administration, Federal Affairs and Special Districts on Wednesday.

“The growth management area is much more complex in that area," said Bob McKee. He represents the Florida Association of Counties, which opposes the bill. "Comprehensive plan changes may affect many landowners, both positively and negatively. And being able to do a comprehensive analysis on all those impacts will be very challenging.”

The bill also creates restrictions on local government actions that affect a business involved in “identified sectors.” Those include ports, rail and roads and the production, distribution or storage of food or energy. The bill lets businesses in those areas ask that respective state agencies review any local government action that is “likely to negatively impact” them.

Democratic Rep. Dan Daley of Coral Springs says he feels a strong sense of déjà vu due to revisiting the issue so soon after last year’s changes.

“I don’t understand. We have an agreement on something, and it used to mean something," Daley said. "We would leave it alone for a couple of years. If somebody filed a bill in that same arena of policy, we wouldn’t touch it. We wouldn’t even hear the bill! We’d say, ‘The Legislature dealt with this. We’re done. We’ve got too much stuff going on. We’ll deal with it down the road, in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years’ – now that means nothing! And so we’re coming back and we’re getting all this stuff that was agreed to last year, the stuff we were able to hold off – that’s what this bill does.”

Nonetheless, Subcommittee Chair Jenna Persons-Mulika noted the hearing was just the first stop for the bill.

“Here we’re talking about ensuring that there’s accountability with our local elected officials to the residents and the people that they represent," she said. "And where they pass an arbitrary or unreasonable ordinance, this permits an additional avenue for challenge.”

The Florida League of Cities, several individual cities, the Sierra Club and 1000 Friends of Florida oppose the bill, which passed on a party-line vote. A similar measure in the Senate also cleared its first stop along party lines.

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Margie Menzel
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