Amended legislation upping the mandatory evacuation time for Keys residents to 30 hours was struck by Judiciary Committee members last week. 

House Bill 587, sponsored by Rep. Holly Raschein, looks to codify a long-standing agreement between the state and local municipalities regarding takings cases in Monroe County. Legislation was originally put forth to split judgment in cases 50-50 once building permits are gone and property owners begin to sue. 

During a House Civil Justice Subcommittee meeting on Jan. 29, members agreed to add language that the state wouldn’t be held liable for half the cost of certain takings liability. Language was also added to increase the evacuation time from 24 hours to 30 hours to allow for more development permits. But those provisions were struck during a Feb. 18 House Judiciary Committee meeting. 

Now, bill language is back to a 24-hour evacuation time and a share of potential takings liability between the state and local governments. Legislation also directs the state land planning agency to update a hurricane evacuation model after the 2020 census. 

Raschein spoke to the committee during the meeting about the bill and the strike-all amendment. Rep. Joseph Geller, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said legislation finds balance, protects the environment and splits the cost. 

“You’ve done a great job on this, and this is the balance,” Geller said to Raschein. “Sometimes people get confused on these issues. When people acting through their government say we’re going to take this action to protect this area, someone has to pay for that. I think this bill gets it right. We want to protect the Keys. We have to be tough in doing so. Both the local government and the state should bear financial responsibility to keep a Florida Keys and a Florida Everglades.”

There’s still an uphill battle, however, to get legislation to the finish line due to the large price tag associated with liability costs. The bill was referred to the House Appropriations Committee on Feb. 21. 

Per a bill analysis, the state would be required to pay half of property-related liability costs in the Keys. The latest estimate provided by the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners projects that, in a worst-case scenario, after the 1,421 remaining permits are allocated, there will be 8,269 parcels left whose owners could bring lawsuits based on the denial of a development permit. The total value of those parcels is estimated at $846,961,269.13.

Since state and local governments in an area of critical concern are involved in land planning regulations, both can be sued as defendants in property rights litigation. For example, a 2018 circuit court entered judgment against Monroe County and the state, finding that both defendants were responsible for “taking” the plaintiff’s property. 

 

MOSQUITO BILL MOVES FORWARD

Legislation revising requirements for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District’s board of commissioners to borrow money was unanimously passed in the House and sent to the Senate on Feb. 20. Current legislation allows a $1 million limit on the district’s borrowing authority of a 5-year period. With the bill’s passage, restrictions would be lifted to bring borrowing of the board of commissioners in line with other agencies, allowing the district to purchase helicopters for its mosquito control operation.

 

PLASTIC BAG LEGISLATION STALLING

Legislation in the House and Senate pertaining to plastic bags and single-use straws has yet to gain traction. House Bill 6043 would remove prohibitions of local laws relating to regulation of auxiliary containers, wrappings and disposable plastic bags, as well as repealing preemptions of local local laws related to use or sale of polystyrene products. Senate Bill 182, which would delete preemptions of local law related to regulation of auxiliary containers, wrappings and plastic bags, also hasn’t gained any movement.

 

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