3/13/23 The Watch List!

Good afternoon and welcome to another edition of The Watch List! It’s week two of session and there is no shortage of bad legislation moving in Tallahassee, but today we have a bit of good news when it comes to efforts to defend local freedom.

Last week, the Hub worked with partners to field a Rapid Message Test through Grow Progress to look at what moves Floridians when it comes to local freedom issues. The results show that there is a clear path to persuading those who identify as Republicans and Independents, those that voted for Trump in 2020, and lower income people on these issues.

Below is a memo from the Hub’s Research Department outlining the key findings from that test, as well as a brief summary of the worst pieces of anti-local freedom legislation moving this session. Let’s get to it!

What We’re Watching

While Floridians made their voices heard and were able to convince Governor Ron DeSantis last session to veto one of the worst attacks on local freedom in our state’s history, the same greedy billionaires and corporate elites are back again in 2023 trying to maximize their profits while silencing the voices of our communities. Here is a quick list of the top four worst preemption bills currently moving in the Legislature.

  1. SB 1586 / HB 1417: In the wake of many local communities putting in place new protections for tenants due to on the ground organizing the last few years, corporate landlords and large business groups are now backing this legislation that would put landlord-tenant relations fully under the control of the State of Florida. Specifically, it would undermine many new safeguards contained in Tenants’ Bills of Rights that have passed recently.

  2. SB 170 / HB 1515: This legislation is substantively similar to the bill vetoed last year by Governor DeSantis and is a priority of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. It would allow private, for-profit corporations to sue local communities over ordinances or regulations that they feel are “arbitrary or unreasonable,” immediately stopping them from taking effect until a court can make a ruling. This could potentially bankrupt local communities and cost taxpayers millions to defend things like puppy mill regulations, sea turtle nesting protections, or something as simple as a noise ordinance in a residential neighborhood.

  3. SB 494 / HB 133: While this same legislation was defeated in the Florida Senate last year, out-of-state companies and their investors are once again pushing to create a perpetual junk fee paid by renters in lieu of a one-time, refundable security deposit. Instead of limiting the outrageous fees around applications and exorbitant security deposits being demanded by corporate landlords, this bill creates a new predatory tax on renters that does not offer the same protections as a security deposit, has no cap on the amount of the fee charged, and puts tenants at risk of potential litigation from damages from the landlord or company charging the fee.

  4. SB 102 / HB 627: These bills would ban rent control statewide under the first provision listed in the legislation. While everyone can agree that much more needs to be done to address Florida’s affordable housing crisis, removing a tool for local communities to stabilize skyrocketing rents is a poison pill in this proposal. A recent poll by Local Progress Impact Labs found that 81% of Floridians support rent control as a way to limit these increases which disproportionately impact workers of color, seniors on fixed incomes, and students struggling with the high cost of living.

As a contrast to these attacks on local freedom, progressive champions, Senator Victor Torres and Representative Anna Eskamani, are offering SB 1658 / HB 1407, the “Keep Floridians Housed Act,” to create a new statewide Department of Housing and Tenant Rights that would center tenants’ rights and stop predatory practices by corporate landlords and developers in Florida’s housing market. Learn more about the proposals here. Let’s lift them up!

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