New Florida Bill Increases Business Owners’ Rights, Allows Them to Sue Government

A recent bill passed on Thursday by the Florida Senate will make it possible for an individual to sue the government to prevent an ordinance if it hamstrings their business.



The measures notated as  HB 1515 and SB 170 require county and city governments to estimate the impact a given rule or ordinance will have on business and make that estimate public before passing anything.

Before the enactment of a proposed ordinance, the  board of county commissioners shall prepare or cause to be  prepared a business impact estimate in accordance with this  subsection. The business impact estimate must be posted on the  county’s website no later than the date the notice of proposed 1enactment is published pursuant to paragraph  and must include all of the following:  1. A summary of the proposed ordinance, including a 163 statement of the public purpose to be served by the proposed ordinance, such as serving the public health, safety, morals, and welfare of the county….

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The bill also mandates the commissioners examine the number of businesses potentially affected, the direct economic costs on business compliance, and the cost to the county through enforcement. While there are numerous exceptions to these new additions, they will nonetheless require governments to soberly contend with the trade-offs of policy, and make those trade-offs visible to the public, theoretically increasing accountability.

Moreover, the rule allows any affected business owner to file a lawsuit against ordinances they feel are unconstitutional, “arbitrary,” or “unreasonable.”.


“A county must suspend enforcement of an ordinance that is the subject of an action challenging the ordinance’s validity on the grounds that it is expressly preempted by the State  Constitution or by state law or is arbitrary or unreasonable if…”

Such legal challenges can be filed within 90 days of an ordinance being passed and will immediately halt the enactment of any law for 45 days after the challenge. The requirement to publish the business impact evaluations mentioned earlier will likely help businesses know if they have a reason to sue. Without it, many business owners would be mainly in the dark.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo came up with the idea for the bill last year, according to the Miami Herald, as a solution to an enduring battle in Tallahassee over preemption.


“The purpose of that bill is to be the end of all preemptions,’’ Passidomo said on Thursday. “I’m sick and tired of us having to preempt when a local government passes an ordinance that’s unreasonable. I call it stupid.”

The law, predictably, has the support of some of the state’s most significant business interests, like the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, and the Florida Association of Home Builders. The League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties have also supported it. Still, individual counties and cities, like Miami-Dade County, have come out against the measure, which limits their ability to manage their community.

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Other critiques stem from the fact that taxpayer dollars will finance these legal challenges. Currently, the state of Florida has a surplus, but concerns about spurious and arbitrary legal challenges using state funds remain.

When challenged on this topic, Republican Representative  Robbie Brackett explained the policy’s benefits, despite its potential downsides.


“This legislation does not prohibit any ordinance of any kind to be done, it just holds them accountable if it was deemed by the courts to be unreasonable,’’

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