Controversial Senate Bill Makes First Committee Stop
TALLAHASSEE – A controversial Florida Senate bill that would allow prevailing parties to recover attorney fees in challenges to comprehensive plans and plan amendments will make its first committee stop today before the Senate Community Affairs Committee at 11 a.m. in Tallahassee.
Senate Bill 540 and its House counterpart HB 359 have sustainable growth advocates up in arms because it would make such challenges prohibitively expensive. When communities are unable to impact the votes of their representatives on city councils and county commissions–many of whom are installed via support from development interests–legal challenges are often a last resort.
Such challenges are already so expensive that they remain rare, even when an amendment comes up against broad public opposition. Developers have the money to engage in expensive court battles and local governments have in-house attornies funded by taxpayers, while community and advocate groups have to raise money to cover their attorney expenses.
However, with the possibility of getting saddled with the additional expenses of legal fees from one or both of the opposition entities, it seems unlikely many groups would be willing to take the risk, which seems to be the very point of the legislation. SB 540 was sponsored by Republican Senator Nick DiCeglie of Pinellas County, and HB 359 was sponsored by Rep. Wyman Duggan of Jacksonville.