Land Use and Local Government Law and Litigation

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Filtering by Tag: separation of powers

Fla Supremes: Uniform Statutes Aren't

In Phantom of Brevard v. Brevard County, the Fla. Supreme Court put home rule over legislative authority by upholding a line of cases requiring the Legislature to use ridiculously specific magic words in order to preempt local authority.

A statute governing the regulation of fireworks that has as its purpose and intent section the following:

This chapter shall be applied uniformly throughout the state. Enforcement of
this chapter shall remain with local law enforcement departments and officials
charged with the enforcement of the laws of the state.

The Supreme Court held that this does not prevent local governments from adopting additional provisions that add regulatory requirements or restrictions to the statutory framework with this language:

However, focusing on potential differences caused by varying local requirements
confuses the issue. Because chapter 791 does not include an insurance coverage
standard or requirement, chapter 791 is not being applied disparately. In other
words, a state statute is not being applied in a non-uniform manner when a
locality enacts a regulation on a particular matter that is not addressed in the
statute. The statute is being applied uniformly. It is the local ordinance that
is creating any variance between counties.
In other words, the statutory requirement for uniform application is totally superfluous and ineffectual. It is a matter of fundamental " law that a local government could not modify the statute itself. The idea that a statute providing for uniform laws, or uniform application, does not evidence legislative intent to preempt the subject matter from local standards is a slap in the face to the legislature and makes a fetish out of home rule. While local government have home rule under the constitution, the constitution also clearly provides for the supremacy of the state legislature and the courts seem to have forgotten it - or at least have developed an unreasoning hostility to it.

LESSON: Legislative draftspeople simply need to start adding the phrase: "all regulation or setting of regulatory standards is hereby preempted and local government shall have no authority to adopt different standards" to pretty much every piece of environmental, land use, and business regulation that goes through their doors.

Fla Supremes - The Governor Can't Sign "Compacts" - Separation of Powers Still Rules in Fla.

In Florida House of Representatives v. Hon. Charles Crist, the Florida Supreme Court exercised original jurisdiction (writ of quo waranto) to hold that the Governor's approval of a gambling compact with various tribes was outside his constitutional authority because the compact permitted violations of state law.

The Court held that even under the apparent federal authority, the gambling permitted bythe compact was prohibitted by legislation, and the governor therefore had no power to enter such a compact. The Court did not reach the question of whether or when the Governor could sign a compact that did not otherwise directly violate state law; or whether such a compact would have to be ratified first.

On one hand, this is a fairly bread and butter separation of powers case. On the other, it demonstrates that we all need to become way more familiar with the writ of quo waranto - I suspect that we will be seeing it more often as a way to challenge the authority of executive actors to take certain actions (as beyond their delegated authority, when the APA doesn't control it), and perhaps against local governments to prevent actions that violate state law.

Fla Supremes - Administrative Officers Can't Challenge Constitutionality of Statutes

In The Crossings at Fleming Island CDD v. Lisa Reinhardt Echevarria et al, the Florida Supreme Court issued a well-reasoned opinion that Property Appraisers can't challenge the constitutionality of provisions of state law governing appraisal of property. The problem: understanding the scope of the decision in other contexts.

It has long been held - mostly in cases involving taxation statutes - that a "ministerial officer" cannot challenge the constitutionality of a statute that the officer must implement. The reason - to avoid chaos and executive nullification of legislative acts. Some question had been raised whether a tax appraiser could raise the constitutionality of a provision "defensively" - as a defense to a challenge to a decision by the Appraiser or Value Adjustment Board. Here, the Court put those cases to bed.

The problem: what about a city/county commission challenging the application of a charter provision? a proposed charter provision? an ordinance proposed by initiative? What about "as applied" challenges rather than facial? And can a local government - which is not a "ministerial officer" of the state -- challenge a state statute as violative of the home rule or other provisions of the state constitution?

These issues are not addressed - but I suspect that they will be in the future.

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