Businesses may be able to sue governments for losses
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAP NEWS/WCJB ) - Business owners may soon have a new tool to fight City Hall. Legislation being pushed for the coming legislative session would allow businesses to sue if a city or county ordinance causes their profits to drop. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the legislation has local governments calling foul.
Senate Bill 620 would allow businesses to sue local governments if the government’s actions, like changing the hours a restaurant or bar can be open, causes a 15% drop in the business’s income or profit. Cities and Counties hate the idea.
“This bill is very broad.” Says Ralph Thomas, the President of the Florida Association of Counties.
“My fear is the unintended consequences and It would be easy for anyone to just say, hey, I think you’ve impacted my business and the cost of my business, and I want a check. I want you to compensate me for my losses. And then we’re going to be in a situation where it’ll probably be cheaper to settle that than fighting it our in court.” Says Thomas.
The legislation raised more questions than sponsor Travis Hutson could answer at its first hearing in November. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville asked, “Can you give me an example of how the government, counties or cities, causes a loss?”
“The possibilities are endless of what they could do” responded Hutson.
More than a dozen spoke against it at that hearing. Ida Eskamani of Florida Rising told the committee “Members, we ask that you please stop this long list of state interference that we’ve seen in this body by protecting our local freedoms.”
John Harris Mauer, representing Equality Florida told Senators local governments need all their tools. “What we know is that local governments should be able to enact ordinances that serve and protect their communities,” said Harris Mauer.
All four Democrats on the Judiciary Committee voted no.
So far, this legislation has gotten more traction in the Senate, where it’s supported by the Senate President.
State Lawmakers begin their annual sixty-day session a week from Tuesday on January 11th, and if SB 620 becomes law, businesses will have to have been in operation for at least three years to be eligible to sue. They must also provide 180 days’ notice before filing suit.
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