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Florida mayors express concern for taxpayers as bill heads to governor's desk

Posted at 9:59 PM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-19 23:21:01-04

TAMPA, Fla. — The mayor of Madeira Beach expressed concern over a bill that is on the way to the governor. Mayor John Hendricks said the bill may look good on the surface but may ultimately be bad for taxpayers.

According to a letter sent to Governor Ron DeSantis last month, 19 other mayors in our state agree. They asked the governor not to sign Senate Bill 620 into law.

As it stands now, the bill also known as, "The Local Business Protections Act," would allow a local business that's been around for at least three years to sue a local government—if it creates or changes an ordinance that causes them to lose 15% profit.

Hendricks said the bill will hurt local government and local taxpayers.

"People don't realize that when a city loses, the residents lose," he said.

Members of Pinellas Park government agreed.

"We believe that it essentially lets the interests of one business trump the interests of other businesses and residents in the community," Pinellas Park Communications and Government Relations Administrator Lana Beck said.

Florida Mayor Sign-On Letter (Veto SB 620) by ABC Action News on Scribd

While the bill does provide some exemptions for certain emergency ordinances, it leaves out things like noise ordinance changes, which Beck said could be costly.

"It would tie their hands to make any changes to noise ordinances, which are a quality-of-life situation," she said.

But what about its impact on businesses?

Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) economist Victor Claar told ABC Action News that he only really sees one main benefit for businesses.

"To the extent that SB620 could discourage a municipality from imposing restrictions that aren't really needed then the threat of a potential lawsuit might be a helpful thing," he said.

Fellow FGCU staff member and law professor Pamella Seay agreed.

"Lawsuits are expensive, I'm a lawyer, I know this," she said.

She said while plenty of businesses will technically qualify to sue, it likely won't be worth it for them to do so.

"I think that perhaps this may be a misguided effort to control extra mandates by local governments," she said.

Claar added local businesses already have some checks and balances in place to safeguard them against the local government.

"There are things like the ballot box, there are things like voice and expressing your opinion and city council meetings and in local media, and then another one is exit," he said.

A spokesperson for the Governor's office released the following statement to ABC Action News:

"We did receive the letter. The governor has not yet received this bill from the legislature. Once delivered to his office, he will review it in its final form and make a decision."

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