HB 829 – Relating to Attorney Fees and Costs
On Tuesday, April 16, HB 829 by Representative Anthony Sabatini (R-Clermont) was heard in the House Judiciary Committee and was reported favorably with 12 yeas and 6 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.
Florida law states that a court may impose sanctions on a party or attorney who raises a frivolous claim or defense or unreasonably delays a judicial proceeding. The court may require the culpable party or attorney to pay for the other party's attorney fees. A party can appeal a court's award or denial of sanctions; however, the appellate court must affirm the award or denial, unless the lower court abused its discretion. This bill entitles a party to attorney fees and costs if the party prevails in an action challenging a local government ordinance as preempted. However, attorney fees and costs may not be awarded if the local government withdraws or repeals the ordinance within 21 days after receiving a written claim that the ordinance is preempted or the filing of a motion seeking attorney fees and costs under the new statutory section, whichever occurs first. The bill states it is remedial and applies retroactively to cases pending or commenced on or after July 1, 2019.
HB 829 will now move to the House floor.
AIF supports legislative attorney fee reform that helps prevent onerous fees imposed on businesses post-litigation.
HB 1383 – Relating to Private Property Rights Protection
On Tuesday, April 16, HB 1383 by Representative James Grant (R-Tampa) was heard in the House Judiciary Committee and was reported favorably with 15 yeas and 3 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.
The Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from depriving a person of his or her private property for public use "without just compensation." However, not every government action restricting or burdening the use of private property is an illegal taking. This bill requires a local government, when settling property rights claims, to treat similar properties in the same way. If the government settles or the owner secures a judgment declaring an inordinate burden, there is a presumption that similarly situated parcels are also inordinately burdened and entitled to equivalent settlement terms or a judicial determination of an inordinate burden. The bill also makes it easier for a private property owner to challenge a local government regulation burdening his or her property by:
- Allowing a jury to consider business damages in making its damages calculation.
- Removing a provision allowing the government to seek attorney fees and costs when a property owner unreasonably refuses a bona fide offer to settle a property claim.
HB 1383 will now move to the House floor.
AIF supports private property rights which create a prosperous business climate in Florida.
SB 76 – Relating to Texting While Driving
On Wednesday, April 17, SB 76 by Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Spring Hill) was heard in the Senate Rules Committee and was reported favorably with 15 yeas and 0 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.
Currently, Florida law prohibits a person from texting, emailing, and instant messaging while driving, however, enforcement of this is a secondary offense, which means a law enforcement officer must detain a driver for another traffic offense in order to cite the driver for texting while driving. This bill changes the current enforcement from a secondary offense to a primary offense for all distracted driving and handheld use of wireless communication devices, not just texting and emailing, allowing law enforcement officers to stop a vehicle solely for driving while distracted. The main goal of this legislation is to eliminate a component that contributes to distracted driving on Florida’s roadways.
SB 76 will now move to the Senate floor.
AIF supports legislation that addresses the issue of distracted driving and will ensure public safety for all on Florida’s roadways.
SB 862 – Relating to Lessor Liability Under Special Mobile Equipment Leases
On Wednesday, April 17, SB 862 by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) was heard in the Senate Rules Committee and was reported favorably with 14 yeas and 2 nays, AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.
Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine (DID) was created in the early 20th century, a time where automobiles began traveling on public roads. The doctrine has been expanded far beyond the borders of its original intent and now applies to off-highway vehicles such as golf carts, tractors, and construction equipment. The doctrine holds owners or lessors liable for the harm caused by an operator, even when the lessor is not in control of the equipment or vehicle at the time of the incident. Florida is the only state in the country where DID is applied in this manner.
This bill provides that lessors of special mobile equipment are not liable for the acts of the lessee or lessee’s agent or employee if the lease agreement requires documented proof of insurance coverage containing limits of at least $250,000 per person and up to $500,000 per incident for bodily injury liability and up to $100,000 for property damage liability, or at least $750,000 for combined property damage liability and bodily injury liability. Special mobile equipment are vehicles not designed or used primarily to transport persons or property and that are only incidentally operated or moved over a highway. Examples include ditchdigging apparatus, well-boring apparatus, road construction and maintenance machinery, draglines, self-propelled cranes and earthmoving equipment.
SB 862 will now move to the Senate floor.
AIF supports the protection of owners and lessors from vicarious liability which is harmful to Florida’s business community.
HB 7111 – Relating to Constitutional Amendments
On Thursday, April 18, HB 7111, sponsored by the House Judiciary Committee, was heard in the House State Affairs Committee and was reported favorably with 15 yeas and 8 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.
This bill changes the process for amending the constitution by citizen initiative by:
- Requiring that a petition-gatherer:
- Register with the Secretary of State prior to obtaining signatures.
- Not be paid based on the number of petitions gathered.
- Requiring the Secretary of State to publish on its website position statements on proposed amendments received from interested persons.
- Directing the Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC) to:
- Estimate the amendment's impact on the state and local economy.
- Requiring the ballot summary to include:
- The name of the initiative's sponsor and the percentage of contributions received by the sponsor from in-state donors;
- If the amendment will cost money or have an indeterminate impact; and
- A Supreme Court determination as to whether the proposed policy can be implemented by the Legislature without the need for a constitutional amendment.
- Directing the Attorney General, when seeking Supreme Court review of an amendment, to ask the Court to:
- Address whether the proposed policy can be implemented by the Legislature; and
- Identify any undefined terms in the amendment that will have a substantive impact; and
- Address whether the amendment creates any constitutional issues.
HB 7111 will now move to the House floor.
AIF supports legislation that adds transparency and accountability to amending the Florida constitution by citizen imitative.