This morning, at 9:30am, the Senate Community Affairs Committee will hear two bills which attack local freedom in Florida. A statewide coalition of renters and tenant lawyers, alongside advocates for workers, clean air and water, animal rights, public health, and other critical local issues, are prepared to fight for the right of local communities to choose what is best for their citizens.
The first piece of legislation, SB 170, puts taxpayers on the hook to defend against for-profit corporations for passing local laws that serve the unique needs of their communities. As written, this bill permits any private business to sue local governments for damages if a new or amended local ordinance is deemed “arbitrary or unreasonable” by the courts. Local ordinances can be automatically suspended upon initiation of a lawsuit. It also creates a one-sided attorney fee structure that means local taxpayers remain vulnerable to the risk of frivolous litigation and multinational corporations could strategically use litigation to delay the effect of local ordinances by tying them up in court. Similar legislation failed and was vetoed last year by the Governor after intense outcry from citizens throughout Florida.
“We defeated this bill last year, and we’re ready to defeat it again. Local decisions should be made at the local level and every community in Florida deserves the freedom to make decisions in their everyday lives, in pursuit of the American Dream,” said Jonathan Alingu, Executive Director of Central Florida Jobs With Justice. “Floridians are at our best when we work together locally on issues regarding the affordability of our homes, the cost of our utilities, and how to protect our communities. Corporate CEOs, in conjunction with certain legislators in Tallahassee, are focused on taking that away from communities in order to maximize their own profits.”
The other bill being heard is SB 102. The first provision in the bill would take away local communities’ ability to enact short-term rent control during states of emergency. The bill would silence the voices of 59% of Orange County residents who in 2022 voted to enact a rent control ordinance in response to skyrocketing housing costs in the region. This state mandate takes away another tool for local communities, at the request of corporate landlords and big real estate interests. In fact, a recent statewide poll indicated that 8 in 10 Florida voters agree the state should limit rent increases.
“Floridians are facing a housing affordability crisis with rents across the state increasing by 20, 30, or 40 percent while being paid some of the lowest wages in the nation” stated Andrea Mercado, Executive Director of Florida Rising. “Banning the use of rent control during housing emergencies overturns the will of Orange County voters of all backgrounds who stood up to say ‘enough is enough’ to rent gouging in their community, and silences the voices of local workers and seniors on fixed incomes fighting to keep a roof over their heads. State lawmakers should listen to the voices of those seeking the freedom of an affordable place to call home, not those of the large corporate developers and lobbying groups who are seeking to maximize their profits on the backs of the hardworking Floridians across the state.”