Florida lawmaker seeks to shield businesses from local government ordinances

A bill moving through the Florida Legislature would allow a business to sue a county or city government if they can prove an ordinance caused a 15% hit to their business. The bill is designed to shield businesses from potential damage from things like mask mandates.

It recently passed the Senate and was sponsored by Sen. Travis Hutson (R).

"I think it’s good, conservative legislation, should a rouge local government use the heavy hand," Hutson said.

Many Democrats and local governments are against the measure.

Pinellas County Commissioner Rene Flowers said she can't think of one leader at the local level who supports the proposed law.

"We are not fans of this," Flowers told FOX 13 Wednesday. "It is an impediment, an infringement on county government to operate separate and apart the way that we should be able to."

If signed into law, cities and counties say this will attract litigious attorneys to the state, and would prevent governments from passing meaningful local laws.

"We would be spending quite a bit of time in court," Flowers said.

Sen. Hutson says the bill has been watered down, and if passed, the winning party in the suit would have to pay attorney’s fees, which means litigious businesses wouldn’t waste the courts' time.   

The bill does allow a city or county to avoid paying if they drop or change the ordinance, or give the business a hardship waiver.

"You’re not going to just shut down businesses because three electives decide it’s a good thing to do," Sen. Hutson said.

The bill passed the senate with a companion bill that would require counties and cities look into the economic impact of new ordinances.