CS/SB 1924 (Diaz) establishes that if a political subdivision issues a “significant emergency order” that deprives any person of a constitutional right, fundamental liberty, statutory right or property to address a purported emergency, the political subdivision bears the burden of proving that the exercise of police power is narrowly tailored, serves a compelling governmental interest and accomplishes the intended goal through the use of the least intrusive means. The bill also provides that the governor, or Legislature by concurrent resolution, may invalidate a political subdivision's emergency action if the governor or Legislature determines that the action unnecessarily restricts a constitutional right, fundamental liberty or statutory right. Lastly, the bill provides that an emergency order issued by a political subdivision will automatically expire 10 days after its issuance unless extended by a majority vote of the political subdivision's governing body. Upon expiration of the significant emergency order, a local government is prohibited from issuing a “substantially” similar order to respond to the same emergency.
The House companion bill, CS/CS/HB 945 (Rommel), deals with local government emergency orders. The bill defines the term “significant emergency order” as an order or ordinance issued by a political subdivision in response to an emergency pursuant to the Emergency Management Act or certain public health emergencies that limit the rights or liberties of individuals or businesses within the political subdivision. CS/CS/HB 945 requires a significant emergency order issued by a political subdivision to be narrowly tailored and limited in scope and applicability for a duration of no longer than seven days – unless the order is extended. The bill provides that a significant emergency order automatically expires seven days after issuance unless it is extended by a majority vote of the governing body in seven-day increments for a total duration of 42 days. The vote to extend the emergency order may be conducted virtually, and the order must include specific information including the circumstances necessitating the remote voting and a finding of necessity to convene and vote virtually. Upon expiration of the significant emergency order, a local government is prohibited from issuing a “substantially” similar order to respond to the same emergency.
A similar bill, HB 7047 (Leek) includes language that limits certain local government emergency orders that “restrict individual liberties” and tracks language from CS/HB 945 by defining the term “significant emergency order” as an order or ordinance issued or enacted by a political subdivision in response to an emergency pursuant to the Act or Chapter 381, Florida Statutes (relating to public health emergencies) that applies to all residents within the political subdivision and limits the right of a resident to exercise religious freedom, including the right to attend a religious service; speak freely or assemble; work, be rewarded for industry or enter into a contract; travel; acquire, possess or protect real or personal property; not be subject to unreasonable search and seizure; or purchase, keep or bear a lawful firearm or ammunition. A significant emergency order issued by a local government must be narrowly tailored and limited in duration, applicability and scope to reduce any infringement on individual liberty to the greatest extent possible. In addition, the order must contain specific reasons in support of the existence of such a purpose. The bill provides that a significant emergency order automatically expires seven days after issuance and may be extended, as necessary, in seven-day increments but only for a total duration of 42 days. If a significant emergency order expires, the local government cannot issue a “substantially similar” order. HB 7047 also requires a state agency or political subdivision that accepts assistance in aid for the purpose of emergency prevention, management, mitigation, preparedness, response or recovery must submit to the Legislature, in advance, a detailed spending plan for the money. When this pre-submission of the agency’s plan is not possible, a state agency or political subdivision must nonetheless submit the plan no later than 30 days after the initiation of any expenditures and for each additional 30 days of the emergency as long as funds continue to be disbursed.
CS/SB 2006 (Burgess) is substantially similar to HB 7047 but does NOT restrict local government emergency orders in the same ways as the previously discussed proposals. CS/SB 2006 clarifies that the failure of a local government to properly notify the local government clerk or recorder of record within three days of the issuance of an emergency order will render the order null and void. Additionally, local government are required to post any emergency orders on a special dedicated webpage accessible through a conspicuous link on the local government's home page. The dedicated webpage must identify the emergency orders, declarations or other orders currently in effect. Furthermore, the local government must provide the Division of Emergency Management with the link to the webpage. (Dudley)