Legislature’s Troubling Growth Bills

There they go again.

This year’s legislative session is nearly half over and some troublesome bills affecting local growth planning are still out there.

One pair (SB 940 & HB 1309) would require local officials to add a private property rights element to their growth plans and supporting provisions to their development codes with an eye toward making every decision subservient to the interests of economic development.

There are two problems with this legislation. One is that it’s unnecessary. The Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution already protects private property rights. There is also a state law, the Bert Harris Act, that addresses this issue.

The other is that rather merely protecting private property rights, this legislation seems to attempt to stake out additional claims about what qualifies as an infringement on private property rights.

According to 1000 Friends of Florida, the main organization tracking growth bills, this legislation hasn’t gotten very far yet, but there’s still plenty of time left, so it needs to be watched.

Another pair of bills (SB 996 and HB 997) has the potential of stifling citizen challenges of zoning and environmental permits, even if the challenges are filed in good faith, by allowing the losers to be assessed up to $50,000 of the winner’s legal costs . (Frivolous challenges are already subject to sanctions).

As I understand it, both sides typically pay their own costs under current law.

The House version, filed by Rep. Sam Killebrew of Polk County and titled the Florida Equal Access To Justice Act, would single out the coverage to protect small businesses to benefit from the legislation.

I guess some people are more equal than others.

This one hasn’t gone to committee hearings yet, but the session is only half over.


Posted in Group Conservation Issues.