This year, our Florida Republican legislators, have launched their most extreme attack on local communities yet in the forms of SB 620/HB 569 and SB 280/HB 403, which we are branding collectively as the Ending Local Freedoms Act. These bills are priorities of Senate President Wilton Simpson at the behest of the largest corporate donors in Florida. If enacted into law, SB 620 would allow big business to run roughshod over local communities by allowing businesses to file litigation if an ordinance or ballot measure results in a 15% or more loss of profit, with local taxpayers on the hook for damages. They’ve coupled this bill with SB 280 which would require local governments to prepare costly business impact statements on the potential costs of new regulations or ordinances and would order an automatic court-ordered freeze if a lawsuit alleges they violate existing preemptions in law. There’s no other way to say this so let’s be direct: these measures could bankrupt local governments and allow unfettered corporate control through the threat of litigation.
Last Thursday, the Ending Local Freedoms Act passed the Senate. However, we can and must continue to fight them in the House, where their companion bills have each passed through one committee stop with two more ahead of them. This time, progressives are not alone in opposition to these pro-corporate takeover bills. Per the Miami Herald, “Florida TaxWatch, the business-backed research organization, warned in a new report issued Wednesday that the legislation will ‘lead to a number of financially motivated and malicious lawsuits, costing local governments over $900 million annually.’”
It is vital we communicate the impact these pieces of legislation could have on the lives of everyday Floridians. No longer could local communities like Miami Beach pass a ballot measure to change the time that alcohol can be served, local governments could lose the right to regulate the type of businesses that locate in residential areas, affordable housing and renter protections are at risk, and taxpayers would be on the hook for potentially millions of dollars in litigation. This bill is a direct attack on local freedoms and we must be vocal about saying so as it moves through the House.
Fortunately, we have a great piece of legislation to tout in its place in the form of the Restoring Local Freedom Act, HB 6113/SB 1900, by Representative Anna Eskamani and Senator Victor Torres. While Republicans are growing the size of government and taking away local freedom, the Restoring Local Freedom Act would address decades of attacks on local control by repealing 35 preemptions in statute and returning power back where it belongs, the people. This bill would empower Floridians to find solutions to the problems that are directly affecting our communities, and recognizes that what may work for Liberty County, might not work for Orange County. Let’s get this done!
For more on the Restoring Local Freedom Act, check out the press release here.
What We’re Saying
- Attack: The Ending Local Freedoms Act is a direct attack on the ability of Floridians to decide what solutions best fit our needs. Nothing could be more anti-freedom than turning over local government to the whims of large corporate interests whose sole focus is increasing profits, not what’s best for the people. Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to choose between being able to fund vital services that ensure their communities are healthy, prosperous, and safe or fighting litigation from deep-pocketed corporate special interests.
- Bought: What the Ending Local Freedom Act makes clear is that Republicans in the Florida Legislature have been completely bought off by corporate special interests. This legislation would do the bidding of the largest corporations in our state at the expense of the working families who actually power our economy and make our communities the vibrant places we call home. This big government power grab would be the nail in the coffin of local freedom in Florida. Floridians know what their communities need!
- Defend: It is vital that we defend the rights of Floridians to implement local solutions in our communities. We must pass the Restoring Local Freedom Act in order to put the power back in the hands of the people. With our state facing a crisis in affordable housing, a low-wage economy, and a climate emergency, it is time for Tallahassee and corporate interest to get out of the way of Floridians championing local solutions.