- Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new measure into law on Thursday night that allows businesses to sue local governments over “unreasonable” ordinances affecting their profits.
- If a lawsuit is permitted, the local government must stop enforcing the challenged ordinance, and the case must be prioritized for a quick decision.
- The law also requires cities and counties to publish a “business impact estimate” before passing an ordinance, except for certain categories like building codes and growth management.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a piece of legislation into law on Thursday night that grants businesses more leeway to file lawsuits against local governments and municipalities if profit margins are affected by “unreasonable” enacted ordinances.
If a lawsuit is permitted to proceed under the bill, it would require the local government to stop enforcing the ordinance being challenged, also mandating that the legal challenge is prioritized over other pending cases to make a decision “as quickly as possible,” according to a legislative analysis.
Per the written language of the bill, a county must wait 45 days to enforce an ordinance after it has been challenged unless the plaintiff obtains a stay during the appeals process, which can extend the period of time an ordinance is deemed unenforceable.
Sen. Jay Trumbull, who filed the bill, stated on the Senate floor in May that the bill contains provisions that would sanction individuals or businesses that file frivolous lawsuits.
“An arbitrary or unreasonable ordinance is one that fails to pass the court’s lowest standards and one that does not have a rational relationship to a legitimate government interest,” said Trumbull. “These cases are often only overturned in the most brazen government overreaches of local government issues, which might otherwise require legislative correction, but could be dealt with in the court.”
If the plaintiff successfully challenges an ordinance as being arbitrary or unreasonable, the court may award up to $50,000 in attorney fees to the winning party.
The measure also requires cities and counties to produce a “business impact estimate” prior to passing an ordinance to be published on the local government’s website that includes economic forecasts.
“The things that must be included in the impact statement include are a summary of the proposed ordinance, an estimate of the direct economic impact for private, for-profit businesses, and any additional information the local government may deem useful,” said Trumbull.
According to the senator, several categorizations of ordinances including building codes, growth management, and community impact would not be required to provide an impact statement.