SB 102 and SB 170 to make their final committee stops this week
TALLAHASSEE – This week, the Florida Senate will again hear two bills that attack local freedom in Florida. SB 102 will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee today, February 22, at 3:30 pm, in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building. SB 170 will be heard in the Senate Rules Committee on Thursday, February 23, at 9:30 am, in Room 412 of the Knott Building. These are the last committee stops for these bills.
A statewide coalition including local elected officials, renters, and tenant lawyers, alongside advocates for workers, clean air and water, animal rights, public health, and other critical local issues, are continuing to speak up for the freedom of local communities to decide what is best for their residents.
The first provision in SB 102 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 stabilization ordinance in response to skyrocketing housing costs in the region. This state mandate would take away another tool for local communities, at the request of corporate landlords and big real estate interests. This, despite the fact that a recent statewide poll indicated that eight in 10 Florida voters agree the state should limit rent increases.
The human toll from Florida’s ever-worsening housing crisis is staggering. More than a quarter of poll respondents reported having recently experienced homelessness due to high housing costs, or near homelessness, defined as being forced to sleep in their car or on a friend’s couch. As Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla recently wrote about in the Orlando Sentinel, “Housing instability profoundly affects our lives, families, communities, and economies. If state lawmakers aren’t going to do something about it themselves, they should at least stop interfering with local efforts to address this crisis.”
“Floridians are enduring some of the lowest wages and highest rent increases in the nation,” said City Commissioner Nancy Metayer Bowen of Coral Springs. “Coral Springs just approved a huge development, but unless we do something to rightsize Florida’s low wages and skyrocketing rents, developments like this simply won’t be enough to address our housing crisis. This bill has some good provisions, like incentivizing some investments in affordable housing, but blocking local communities from reigning in out of control rent increases is a poison pill. ”
SB 170, puts the financial burden on taxpayers to defend against for-profit corporations for passing local laws that serve the unique needs of their communities. This bill would permit any private business to sue local governments for damages if the courts deem a new or amended local ordinance to be “arbitrary or unreasonable.” What’s worse, local ordinances can be automatically suspended upon initiation of a lawsuit. The bill would also create a one-sided attorney fee structure that means local taxpayers remain vulnerable to the risk of frivolous litigation and deep-pocketed multinational corporations could 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 communities and local electeds throughout the state.
“We need that kind of outcry again this year,” said Tallahassee City Commissioner Jack Porter. “Local communities know what’s best for the citizens who live there and promoting frivolous lawsuits, all in the name of more profits for big corporations, is the last thing we need. We need the freedom to do what’s best for the people who have elected us to serve, not the corporate interests who run Tallahassee.”