February 24-28, 2020
Almost 30 years ago, Getting to Yes (by Roger Fisher and William Ury) was published. The book was intended to serve as a step-by-step strategy for coming to mutually acceptable agreements in every sort of conflict. An important premise of the book is that when there is a situation that affects multiple stakeholders, such as in the legislative process, there should be an opportunity for all parties to fairly negotiate their needs. The authors encourage parties to focus on stakeholders' interests and not their positions. Ideally, there is a little give and a little take. The authors argue that the emphasis of negotiating shouldn't be about winning or losing but about collaborating to reach the best possible outcome.

The job of cities is to protect the public health, safety and welfare as well as promote the needs and conveniences of its citizens. Whether it’s providing an economic climate that encourages business startups, facilitating the provision of affordable housing, providing access to parks, recreation and the arts, or developing the aesthetics and characteristics of cities citizens want to call home, the goals of the people are the primary motivator for local governments. Cities decide how to balance all these competing interests by remaining in touch with the citizens as they weigh the level of services desired and available to them against the costs and practicality of providing the services. 

Unfortunately, it seems many state legislators in Florida have not read this important book and clearly are not trying to collaborate in finding solutions to problems. Many operate as though the process is necessarily a zero-sum game. Over the past decade or so, due to term limits, the growing influence of money in the political process, the rise of national groups developing “boiler-plate” preemptions for state legislatures to adopt and other factors, the inequity of the ability of the competing interests to voice their concerns and interests has grown. Accordingly, this has left the institutions closest to our citizens – Florida’s cities – at a disadvantage.

The current political climate is one in which large corporations and special interest groups are seeking to preempt any and all activities they deem unfavorable to their business or their clients. Many of these preemptions are not being fully vetted through the committee process and instead are being introduced as amendments tucked inside multi-page rewrites of bills during a committee or on the floor where citizen input is EXTREMELY limited.

The response to this proclivity toward preemption is for you to make your local voices heard! 

  • Email, write and call your legislators to provide specific information describing the impacts of legislation on the citizens, businesses and operations of your municipality.
  • Remain fully engaged in meeting with your legislator year-round to maintain a working relationship.
  • Take your legislator on a tour of your city so they can see firsthand what services your city is providing, or is planning to provide, and generally stay engaged.

So far this session your engagement has been amazing! You have responded to our Legislative Action Alerts in record numbers and are forcing legislators to give us a seat at the table. With your help, we can provide input, work toward consensus and help craft solid, fair and equitable public policy. 
Short-Term Rentals
Despite not being on any agendas this week, it was an active week behind the scenes for the vacation rental bills. On Tuesday, the Governor publicly came out in support of local control on vacation rentals and his comments certainly changed the dynamic at the Capitol. You can view that interview here

CS/SB 1128 (Diaz) is on the Senate Rules Committee agenda for Monday, March 2. Please view the LEGISLATIVE ALERT here and reach out to the members of the Senate Rules Committee this weekend to voice your opposition to this legislation. This is an important fight to maintain the integrity of local neighborhoods. We encourage you to use Facebook, Twitter and any other means at your disposal to engage your citizens in this fight . The current version preempts any local regulations specific to short-term rentals if they were adopted after June 1, 2011. The bill also preempts cities from adopting regulations on advertising platforms. Keep the pressure on your legislators and we can still win this fight. The House companion bill, CS/CS/HB 1011 (Fischer), passed all its committees of reference and now awaits action by the full House. The League OPPOSES both bills. (Cook)
Growth Management Train Moves to House Floor
In the legislative process, a “train bill” is the insider phrase for the practice of combining various unrelated concepts into one bill to facilitate passage of the issues, rather than filing multiple standalone bills. This week a comprehensive growth management bill, CS/CS/CS/HB 203 (McClain), passed its last committee of reference. The underlining bill requires local governments to adopt by July 1, 2023, a new mandatory element in their comprehensive plans that addresses the protection of private property rights. The League OPPOSES this concept due to the costs associated in making the comprehensive plan amendments by the deadline outlined in the bill. As amended, the bill now includes the following provisions:

  • A provision that would, under certain circumstances, prohibit a city from providing water or sewer service in the unincorporated area of a county without the express consent of county commission.
  • A provision that extends the 5G “shot clock” and “deemed approved” provisions provided for in the Advanced Wireless Deployment Act to permit applications for ALL utilities in the right of way.
  • Last session, legislation passed that created a new section of law providing for a mandatory award of attorney fees, costs and damages against a local government in a civil action in which a local government ordinance is determined to have been expressly preempted by the state Constitution or by state law. However, that law exempted ordinances adopted pursuant to part II of chapter 163. A provision was adopted to HB 203 removing the exception for ordinances adopted pursuant to part II of chapter 163.

The Senate companion bill, CS/SB 410 (Perry), is scheduled to be considered by the Senate Rules Committee next Monday, March 2. (Cruz)
Update on Bert Harris Act/Private Property Rights Legislation
CS/HB 519 (Grant, J.) is likely to be voted on by the full House next week. As currently drafted, the bill significantly amends the Bert J. Harris Act and substantially handicaps local government ability to resolve these claims. The bill requires any settlement reached on a Harris claim that involves the issuance of a variance or exception to a regulation on a residential property be automatically applied by the government entity to all similarly situated residential properties that are subject to the same rules or regulations. Similarly situated is not defined in the bill. Therefore, the legislation will have a severe chilling effect on the settlement of Harris claims.

Additionally, the bill limits the time frame for government entities to respond to Harris claims from 150 days to 90 days, removes prevailing party standard from the attorney fees provision only allowing a property owner to recover fees if they prevail. The bill opens the door to allow a property owner to recover business damages which is strictly prohibited under current law. We believe this bill is nothing more than a back-door handout to the multi-million-dollar commercial short-term rental industry, that will exponentially increase attorney fees and leave the taxpayers with the bill.

Next Monday, March 2, the Senate Rules Committee will consider CS/SB 1766 (Lee). As amended, the Senate bill has completely removed the concept of “similarly situated properties” from the bill. Also, currently not included in the Senate bill are changes to the attorney fee provisions nor the inclusion of business damages in Harris claims. The League prefers the Senate position on this bill over the House position. (Cruz)
‘Local Government Efficiency’ and Urban Core Crime Task Force Bill Ready for House Floor
CS/HB 7101 establishes two task forces comprised of members appointed by the Governor, House Speaker and Senate President. The “Local Government Efficiency Task Force” is directed to review the governance and function of local governments and make recommendations on any changes necessary to make local governments “more efficient.” Task force recommendations must be submitted to the governor and legislature by June 2022. The “Urban Core Crime and Violence Task Force” is directed to study causes of crime and violence in urban core neighborhoods and communities and develop recommendations to help reduce violence and crime in these areas. The task force must submit recommendations to the governor and legislature by June 2022. CS/HB 7101 passed the House Appropriations Committee on February 25 and is available for House floor action. There is no Senate companion bill at this point.  (O’Hara)
Local Government Reporting Gets Grading Requirement
The House Appropriations Committee (18-10) passed  CS/HB 7069 (State Affairs), which requires DFS to create a website and mail a report to every household that compares and ranks cities and counties on a multitude of budget and economic factors. To facilitate this report, local governments will have to submit certain information to DFS. DFS will adopt, by rule, the method and format of the requirement reporting. Some of the information that will need to be submitted includes government spending per capita, government debt per capita, and cost of government. The bill was amended to require DFS to assign letter grades to local government on these specific metrics. Given the differences in municipalities, ranking and comparing municipalities will put data out there that has no value and could cause confusion among residents. The bill also was amended to include a $3 million appropriation to DFS. CS/HB 7096 is on the House Special Order Calendar on Tuesday, March 3. The League opposes this bill. (Hughes)
Water Quality Bills Advance to House and Senate Floor
CS/CS/SB 712 (Mayfield) and CS/HB 1343 (Payne) make numerous changes to current law relating to water quality improvements, septic systems, basin management action plans, stormwater management, sanitary sewer overflows and wastewater project grants. CS/CS/SB 712 is ready for Senate floor action. As amended in their final committees, the bills are now substantially similar. Key differences remain regarding the number of Cabinet votes required to confirm the DEP Secretary and provisions relating to the land application of biosolids. CS/HB 1343 passed the House State Affairs Committee on February 27 and is available for House floor action. The League is continuing to monitor both bills. (O’Hara)
Bills to Increase Environmental Fines by 50% Ready for Chamber Floor Action
CS/CS/SB 1450 (Gruters) and CS/HB 1091 (Fine) increase civil and administrative fines by 50% for violations of various state environmental laws. CS/HB 1091 passed the House State Affairs Committee on February 26. CS/CS/SB 1450 passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on February 26. The Senate bill includes provisions to establish an optional sanitary sewer lateral inspection program for cities and counties. The League is continuing to monitor both bills. (O’Hara)
House Tax Package Ready for the Floor
The House Appropriations Committee passed (25-4) the House Tax Package this week.  CS/HB 7097 (Ways and Means) includes several tax reductions and other tax-related modifications. Of note, the bill includes a 0.5% rate reduction for both the state CST and the direct-to-home satellite services. The sales tax rate on commercial leases is reduced from 5.5% to 5.4%. The bill includes two sales tax holidays, a three-day “back-to-school” holiday and a seven-day “disaster preparedness” holiday. The bill also expands the allowable uses for tourist development tax revenues to include water quality improvement, and parks and trails projects. The bill provides for an approximately one-third reduction in the aviation fuel tax paid by commercial air carriers. The bill includes a controversial requirement that school capital outlay sales surtaxes approved in the future be proportionately shared with charter schools. The total local government revenue impact of the bill in fiscal year 2020-21 is -$24.8 million (-$42.5 million recurring). The League is neutral on this bill. (Hughes)
E-Verify Starts Moving in the House 
CS/HB 1265 (Byrd, Fitzenhagen) passed (15-8 ) the House Commerce Committee along party lines. The bill was amended to include  many of the components in the Senate companion,  CS/CS/SB 664 (Lee) . CS/HB 1265 requires all public employers to register and use the E-Verify system for all employees beginning January 1, 2021. The bill also applies to public contractors and subcontractors, regardless of the amount of the contract or their number of employees. The bill directs public employers who believe that a contractor has knowingly violated the E-Verify requirement to terminate the contract. The bill also specifies that this termination would not be a breach of contract. Contractors who have their public contract terminated in this manner would not be eligible for another contract for at least one year. CS/HB 1265 also applies to private employers, requiring them to use the E-Verify system for all employees or contract employees hired after January 1, 2021. The bill also gives private employers the option to verify a person’s eligibility using the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9).   (Hughes)
Home-Based Business Preemption
This week, the House Commerce Committee passed CS/CS/HB 537 (Donalds), a sweeping preemption on the local regulation of home-based businesses and local zoning regulations. The bill provides that local governments may not enact or enforce any ordinance, regulation, or policy, or take any action to license or otherwise regulate a home-based business in a manner that is different from any other businesses in a local government’s jurisdiction. In order to be considered a home-based business, the bill requires that:

  • The business operates, in whole or in part, from a residential property.
  • The employees of the home-based business reside in the residence, except for up to two employees that do not reside at the residence. However, employees of the home-based business that do not primarily work at the residential dwelling are not required to reside in the dwelling.
  • Parking for the business activities of the home-based business complies with local zoning requirements.
  • The use of the residential property is consistent with the uses of the residential areas that surround the property, but incidental and short-term business uses and activities are permitted.
  • The activities of the home-based business are secondary to the property’s use as a residential dwelling.

If the bill passes, local governments would be preempted from enacting common-sense regulations such as prohibiting flammable liquids from being stored at a home business or even from restricting hours of operation. The League opposes this bill. (Cruz)
Consideration of Impact Fee Legislation Postponed 
This week CS/SB 1066 (Gruters) was on the agenda to be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee. After concerns were raised about the impact of the bill, Chairman Bradley postponed the consideration of the bill until next Tuesday’s Appropriations Committee meeting. The bill, as originally filed, potentially limits the collection of impact fees by requiring only certain data be used to calculate the fees and prohibit the use of impact fee revenue to fund anything not meeting the definition of “infrastructure” and “public facility” as defined in the bills. The bill allows impact fee credits to be transferred from one development to another within the same impact fee jurisdiction for the same type of facility under certain conditions. The legislation mandates that each city and county establish an impact fee review committee composed of, two members of the business community, two local contractors and one at-large member. This review commission will be responsible for establishing the policy and methodology for determining impact fees on new developments and for reviewing proposed impact fees on each new development before the fee becomes final.

The House bill has passed all committees of reference and is now awaiting consideration on the House floor. Prior to the bill being temporarily postponed, an amendment had been adopted that removed the provisions dealing with the impact fee review committee from the bill. Additionally, the amendment clarified the transfer on impact fee credits had to occur within the same or adjoining impact fee zone or district rather than city or county wide transfers. Lastly the amendment added public libraries, emergency medical services, and any fire and law enforcement facility to be an allowable expenditure of impact fees. (Cruz)
Charter Schools Zoning 
This week, the House Education Committee passed CS/CS/HB 1029 (Rodriguez, A.), a bill dealing with charter schools. The bill includes language that allows charter schools the ability to expand under their preexisting zoning without obtaining a special exception or rezoning. The bill also requires a local government, if requested by a charter school, to provide within 14 days a written justification for any challenged requirements. CS/CS/HB 1029 awards attorney fees and court costs to charter schools only. The League opposes this bill. (Branch) 
CS/HB 101 (Andrade), a bill that would allow municipalities the ability to retain only up to 5% across an entire construction project, passed both chambers this week. The bill is now awaiting action by the governor. The League supports this bill.  ( Branch )
Permit Application Timelines Revisited and Expanded 
HB 7099 (State Affairs), CS/CS/CS/HB 395 (Andrade) and CS/CS/SB 7018 (Infrastructure and Security) all passed out of their respective committees this week. The bills include language that extends the 5G “shot clock” and “deemed approved” provisions provided for in the Advanced Wireless Deployment Act to all permit applications for ALL utilities in the right of way of municipalities and counties jurisdictions. This language is also included in CS/CS/CS/HB 203 (McClain). The League opposes these bills. (Branch)
CS/CS/SB 998 (Hutson), a bill related to making housing more affordable, is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, March 3. The League supports this bill. However, we are opposed to the companion bill, CS/CS/HB 1339 (Yarborough), which passed this week out of the House Commerce Committee. This bill would require a local government to allow accessory dwelling units in all single-family residential areas. (Branch)
‘Merica: Fireworks Bills Ready for Floor Votes
Legislation allowing people to legally set off fireworks on three national holidays, without requiring a signature to buy the explosives, passed out of the House Commerce Committee on February 27. CS/CS/HB 65 (Rodriguez, A.M.) would allow people 18 and older to buy fireworks to use on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Independence Day. The Senate companion, CS/CS/SB 140 (Hutson), has also passed all its committees of reference and is awaiting action by the full senate. The League is monitoring this bill. (Cook)