For local government officials watching the state’s continued preemption of city and county autonomy, there’s plenty to worry about in the Florida Legislative session that began March 7.
At the Mayor’s Council of Pinellas County meeting March 1, Florida League of Cities field advocacy director Scott Dudley flagged about a dozen bills affecting the ability of cities and towns to govern themselves with home rule.
And there is a theme. State Sen. Nick DiCeglie, R-Indian Rocks Beach, is a sponsor of three of them, which left mayors visibly frustrated.
DiCeglie did not respond to phone or text messages seeking comment.
“Well, we may not be receptive to his reelection,” responded Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters, a fellow Republican.
The bills cover a range of issues — including added requirements for city candidates to report their finances, new limits on local governments regarding land use decisions, and a measure that could further limit property tax increases. Here’s a look at some of them:
Residential building permits
HB 671, Rep. Tiffany Esposito, R-Fort Myers
SB 682, DiCeglie
This would deem a building application approved if municipalities fail to provide timely notice that the application is incomplete. It would reduce the time period a municipality could ask for more information and require the local jurisdiction to reduce the permit fee by 75% if an owner hires a private contractor to review plans or provide building inspection services.
HB 383, Rep. Philip Wayne Griffitts, Jr., R-Panama City Beach
SB 346, DiCeglie
The legislation would require contracts between local governments and contractors to include all cost estimates and restrict municipalities from withholding payments, except those subject to good faith disputes or claims against public surety bonds. It would also require municipalities to deem an application approved if it is still under review after 180 days.
Dudley said the bills on building permits and public construction stem from the development community at a time when “the construction crane is the official state bird.”
HB 833, Rep. Wyman Duggan, R-Jacksonville
SB 714, DiCeglie
State law already forbids municipalities from banning or limiting the frequency and duration of short-term rentals, except for cities that had ordinances on the books before 2011. The bill would create additional preemptions on how cities regulate short-term rentals, limiting what kind of parameters municipalities can set on properties, such as occupancy limits.
Partisan local elections
HB 405, Rep. Chase Tramont, R-Port Orange
Proposes an amendment to the Florida Constitution to prohibit nonpartisan municipal elections. Candidates would be required to declare a political party. Residents could only vote for candidates with their same party affiliation in primary elections. This would bar independent voters from primaries, Dudley said.
Financial disclosures for local officers
HB 37, Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers
SB 774, Sen. Jason Brodeur, R-Lake Mary
This would his require mayors, city commissioners, members of volunteer boards and city and county administrators to file in-depth financial disclosures. The Form6 requires disclosure of all assets, liabilities, net worth, income sources and business interests. These office holders currently file a less detailed form. “A lot of city officials are saying ‘if I have to fill that out, I’m not going to serve,’” Dudley said, adding the salary for local officials makes the public disclosure not worthwhile.
Land use and development regulations
HB 439, Rep. Stan McClain, R-Ocala
This would require municipalities to comply with special magistrate decisions when a petitioner challenges a denial for a land use application. The legislation would redefine concepts of density, intensity and urban sprawl in local governments’ comprehensive plans. It would remove local governments’ ability to deny a development application based on level of service used for planning, which is related to traffic flow. “It would change the land development landscape in the state of Florida,” Dudley said.
New limits on increases of homestead property taxes
HB 469/HJR 471, Rep. Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin, R-Miami-Dade County
SB 120/SJR 122, Sen. Bryan Avila, R-Hialeah Gardens
This would decrease the cap on annual homesteaded property tax increases from 3% to 2%. Dudley said this would drastically decrease the revenue municipalities receive to fund basic operations, likely forcing them to raise property taxes or fees and cut services. “It’s not really a tax cut at all, it’s a tax shift,” he said. This would require an amendment to the state constitution, so if the bill passes, it would go on voters’ ballots.
Local officials’ employment contracts
HB 729, Rep. Jeff Holcomb, R-Spring Hill
SB 696, Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill
This would prohibit municipalities from renewing, extending or renegotiating contracts with city managers, chief executive officers and municipal attorneys within a year of an August primary election for mayor and members of the governing body.
Solid waste management
HB 975, Holcomb
SB 798, Ingoglia
This would ban cities and counties from prohibiting or restricting private waste management providers from providing recycling or solid waste services in an area. “The bills prohibit the use of exclusive franchise agreements and restrict a local government from providing its own solid waste or recycling service,” according to the Florida League of Cities website.