Legal Report, April 2015

General Counsel, Trela J. White
Asst. General Counsel, Jennifer G. Ashton


1. SB 1216 and HB 933.—Growth Management

SB 1216 and HB 933 are proposals that attempt to restrict local government control over growth management decisions.  HB 933 was just recently amended to include controversial language from six (6) stand-alone growth management bills.  HB 933 does some of the following things: eliminates the DRI process for future large-scale projects; dissolves the Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council (RPC), along with some of the statutory functions of the remaining 10 RPCs; amends the sector plan process by reducing certain regulatory reviews; caps concurrency and impact fees in certain situations; preempts local governments from imposing fees for vegetation removal from the rights-of-way when a development is complying with concurrency; and creates a private property rights element that will have to be included in all local government comprehensive plans, which will add time, cost and expense for the local governments to prepare, adopt and implement such elements.  SB 1216 is out of committee and is awaiting action by the full Senate.  HB 933 is still in committee.  We will continue to monitor these bills and provide you with updates.

2. SB 896 and HB 391.—Location of Utilities

The Florida Legislature is considering multiple unfunded mandates this session.  One of these mandates is contained in SB 896 and HB 391.  These bills require that local governments, and not the utilities, bear the cost of relocating a utility’s equipment if such equipment is located within a utility easement regardless of the private or public nature of the easement.  Both bills are still in committee.  We will continue to monitor these bills and provide you with updates.


3.  Jeffrey Marcus Gray vs. Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida, Inc. (“LSS”); Case No. 1D14-5793 of the First District Court of Appeal
This case was first reported on at the January 2015 League meeting.  The full details of the case are contained in the January 2015 Legal Report.  Gray is a self-described public activist who earns part of his livelihood making public records requests on unsuspecting private entities that do business with public agencies and then suing them when they fail to provide the public records to Gray’s satisfaction.  Joel Chandler helps Gray carry out his public records requests.  In this case, the trial court ruled that the means utilized by Gray to seek records from LSS constituted a flagrant abuse of Chapter 119 and were designed to ambush unsuspecting private entities.  The court further opined that the practices amounted to no more than a scam and denied Gray’s complaint seeking attorney’s fees and costs.  The court went on to state that the Public Records Act “…was not designed to create a cottage industry for so-called ‘civil rights activists’ or others who seek to abuse the Act for financial gain.”  Gray has filed an appeal with the First District Court of Appeal.  On March 25, 2015, Gray was granted a second extension of time to file his initial brief, which is now due on April 20, 2015.  The First District specifically stated that no further extensions of time would be granted except upon a showing of extraordinary circumstances.


4. Town of Gulf Stream, et al vs. Palm Beach County, and Sharon R. Bock, as Clerk and Comptroller of Palm Beach County, Intervenor
Case No. 502011CA017953XXXXMB.  Inspector General Funding Lawsuit.
Fourteen municipalities sued Palm Beach County challenging the method of funding for the Inspector General Program (the “OIG Program”).  The current funding method authorizes the Board of County Commissioners to set an amount the municipalities must pay for the OIG Program and to bill municipalities for that amount.  The municipalities contend that the current funding method is an unlawful tax and invades municipal home rule budgetary authority.  On March 16, 2015, the Trial Court entered a Final Judgment in favor of Palm Beach County.  On March 26, 2015, the municipalities filed a Motion for Rehearing.  On April 9, 2015, the Trial Court denied the municipalities’ Motion for Rehearing.  On April 8, 2015, the City of Delray Beach filed a Notice of Withdrawal from the case.