Will tax impact statements help businesses hold local government accountable?

In 1973, the Florida Legislature enacted the Municipal Home Rules Power Act, giving cities and counties the power to enact their own laws, unless state law overrules them. This legislative override, or “preemption,” is either the trampling of local rights — or — a bulwark against a patchwork of parochial laws, depending on who you ask.

“The government closest to the people serves the people best” is fine – unless you own the beef that the neighboring government is goring.

It’s nearly a week into session, and Historic City News has been following what’s been called the “preemption to end all preemptions” bill as it moves toward passage – a bill that could be a boon for businesses – but a major legal and tax headache for local authorities.

From restricting local gun regulations to overriding local minimum wage regulations and giving the state responsibility for vacation rentals, state lawmakers have stepped in to standardize regulations across the state — a move some local lawmakers see as self-defeating in Tallahassee. So how much of state regulation should come from the capital and how much from local legislators?

Two interest bills were filed by our State Senator, Travis Hutson.

SB280 would require counties and cities to produce a “business impact statementbefore passing ordinances and have them suspend enforcement of the ordinances if they are challenged in court. This bill was passed by the Senate Community Affairs Committee.

SB620 would allow companies to sue if revenues or profits drop by at least 15% due to a local ordinance. This bill must be approved by the Appropriations Committee before it can be submitted to the full Senate.

  • The impact: Businesses will have new tools to fight laws that they see as harmful to them. For governments, the future could be filled with lawsuits, from the valid to the frivolous.
  • The supporters : The Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and Americans for Prosperity-Florida are in favor.
  • The opponents : The Florida League of Cities spoke out against the laws, while the Association of Counties took no position but raised concerns.
  • The argument: Hutson said if the state needed to stop passing preemptive laws, it needed to make sure businesses were protected. Requiring local governments to quantify the impact of laws they pass and giving businesses a way to fight back limits the need for Tallahassee to intervene, he says.
  • The pushback: Opponents call the measures “a litigator’s dream,” with state companies given a process to overrule local lawmakers and heavy legal bills from local taxpayers’ money.

We are happy to have you with us as we follow these and other questions throughout the session.

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