Businesses may be able to sue governments for losses

Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 5:54 PM CST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - 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. The legislation has local governments calling foul.

Senate Bill 620 would allow businesses to sue local governments if the governments actions, like changing the hours a restaurant or bar can be open, causes a 15 percent drop in the businesses income or profit. Cities and counties hate the idea.

“This bill is very broad.” President of The Florida Association of Counties Ralph Thomas said.

“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 out in court.” Thomas said.

The legislation raised more questions than Sponsor Travis Hutson could answer at its first hearing in November.

“Can you give me an example of how the government, counties or cities, causes a loss?” Senator Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville asked.

“The possibilities are endless of what they could do” Hutson responded.

More than a dozen spoke against it at that hearing.

“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,” Ida Eskamani of Florida Rising told the committee

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” Harris Mauer said.

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 60 day session 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.