1000 Friends Challenges Law To Squash Citizen Challenges On Growth; Seeks Repeal

1000 Friends of Florida has announced it will challenge a hastily-approved bill that will discourage citizens from challenging local growth decisions.
Under the bill (HB 7103) citizens whose challenges fail would be forced to pay the other parties’ legal expenses.
The bill has hastily brought to a vote with minimal debate and no staff analysis and is another example of anti-environmental mindset in Tallahassee.
“Passage of this act is an attack on the rights of each and every one of Florida’s 21 million citizens,” says 1000 Friends former Legal Director Richard Grosso.
1000 Friends is also asking members of conservation groups to ask their local legislators to repeal the law in the 2020 session.
The effect would be to stifle substantive challenges to local growth decisions and is unnecessary to prevent abuses of the current system..
Courts already had the authority to force plaintiffs to pay defendants legal expenses in cases where lawsuits were filed maliciously or frivolously.
Citizen challenges are now the only way to enforce local growth plans since the Florida Legislature acted in 2011 to strip state planning officials of the ability to challenge growth plan provisions they felt were inconsistent withy state law.
Locally, the threat of a state legal challenge was a powerful tool in forcing Polk County officials to protect the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern from overdevelopment.