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Senate passes legislation letting businesses sue local governments

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Business owners who suffer losses as a result of certain city or county governments ordinances will be able to recover damages under a measure passed by the Florida Senate on Jan. 27.

Filed by Sen. Travis Hutson (R-St. Augustine), SB 620 allows companies that have been in business in Florida for at least three years to seek and claim damages from county or city governments that enact ordinances that cause a 15 percent reduction in the firm’s business revenue or profit.

In addition to damages, suing firms may also be able to collect court and attorney fees.

Ordinances, declarations, or orders passed in response to an emergency are exempt under the proposed bill.

That bill cleared the Senate by a 22-14 vote.

Also filed by Hutson SB 280 requires counties and cities to publish on their websites a “business impact estimate” prior to passing an ordinance. Those estimates must include information such as the purpose of the proposed ordinance, its estimated economic impact on local businesses, and the cost they would incur in order to comply with the proposed measure.

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That bill was passed by a 28-8 margin.

In a written statement, Brooksville City Manager Ron Snowberger said that if the bills are signed into law, the City would rely on its lawyers for advice on how the legislation would affect local government.

Meanwhile, Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer CEO) Morris Porton said that both bills will make both governments and business owners responsible for what happens in their communities.

“I think both bills hold cities and counties responsible for doing their homework and (hold) the businesses to be responsible for reviewing SB280, and responding in the appropriate manner to the proper officials if affected,” Porton said. “SB620 would further enable businesses to act if it is justified for any financial losses.”

If signed into law, SB620 becomes effective immediately.

SB 280 would go into effect on Oct. 1.

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