Because we have Home Rule authority, we rarely ask the Legislature to pass a law that allows us to solve a problem. Instead, most of what we fight for at the Capitol is preserving our ability to come up with local solutions and not have a one-size-fits-all approach implemented at the state level. In other words, we play 99% defense.
This year, several preemption bills put us on high alert early in session:
- Partisan local elections (HJR 405), a proposed Constitutional amendment that would have required cities to have partisan elections
- Solid waste management (SB 798 and CS/HB 975), bills eliminating solid waste franchises for certain property types in a city
- Municipal utilities (CS/HB 1331 and SB 1380), bills limiting enterprise fund transfers from utilities to general funds of cities
- Sovereign immunity (CS/HB 401 and SB 604), bills drastically raising sovereign immunity caps, thereby increasing the liability that cities would have
- Residential building permits (SB 682 and CS/HB 671), bills severely shortening the timeframe that residential building permits had to be approved.
The above bills died in committee. You, our members, were in your legislators’ ears early and often talking about the impacts that those bills would have on your communities. Those education efforts proved to be a difference-maker because the bills fizzled out about halfway through session. Because they never made it to the finish line, we successfully defeated those bills this year.
Sometimes threats emerge late in the process via floor amendments. The vacation rental bill (CS/CS/CS/SB 714) passed the full Senate and was later amended by the House with language that would have been detrimental to cities. Because of your advocacy, when the bill came back to the Senate for final approval, the Senate held firm and ultimately rejected that language. As a result, the bill died.
In today’s Legislature, if a bill makes it on an agenda, it’s pretty much guaranteed to pass through that committee. Most of what FLC’s Legislative Team does is try to keep bills off an agenda. Your advocacy efforts and the relationships you have with your legislators are a big part of this strategy.
Two major bills that were a priority of House and Senate leadership dealt with housing and the ordinance adoption process. The League was at the table and provided feedback to Senate leadership on what should be included and where our concerns were. The housing bill (CS/SB 102) is a comprehensive housing bill that sunsets after 10 years. If the legislative changes found in the housing bill cause problems for cities, we will pursue legislation to address them in upcoming sessions.
The local ordinances bill (CS/CS/SB 170), which returned from the 2022 Legislative Session, imposes new requirements on municipalities for adopting and enforcing ordinances. However, the League was instrumental in making significant changes to that bill from where it started last session and ended this session. The bill aims to ensure local governments know the impacts of pending ordinances on business in their community. The League successfully narrowed the scope of what needed to be included in those business impact statements.
Two areas where we proactively pursued legislation or appropriations were:
- Water and wastewater facility operators, part of the FLC Legislative Platform
The bills relating to water and wastewater facility operators, CS/CS/HB 23 by Representative Melony Bell and CS/CS/CS/SB 162 by Senator Jay Collins, deal with license reciprocity for water and wastewater operators from other states moving to Florida. Cities are facing challenges in hiring operators to run their water and wastewater plans. These bills will, we hope, increase the number of licensed operators that could go to work for cities.
Regarding cybersecurity, for the last two years, we’ve been successful in getting the state to set aside funding for local cybersecurity grants so that cities can protect themselves from hackers. We’re happy to report that $40 million was included in the FY 2023-2024 budget to continue those grants. This funding is for the Florida Department of Management Services to administer a competitive cybersecurity grant program. That program transfers nonrecurring financial assistance to local governments to develop and enhance cybersecurity risk management programs. (See the League’s cybersecurity portal at bit.ly/3LYdCKc.)
The bills above have passed both chambers and, at the time of publication, are awaiting action by the Governor.
This information is a just summary of legislation that impacted Florida cities during the legislative session. For more information on other bills, visit flcities.com/advocacy to access bill summaries, view the legislative Final Report and watch the FLC Post-Legislative Session Webinar.