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Bill Summary Details

Emergency Powers of a Local Government (Oppose)

CS/CS/SB 2006 (Burgess) and CS/HB 7047 (Leek) provide that it is the intent of the Legislature to minimize the negative effects of extended emergencies and that all aspects of emergency preparedness, response and recovery be transparent to the public to the greatest extent possible. As such, the bill clarifies that the Emergency Management Act applies to public health emergencies and requires related planning and preparation for such emergencies. The bill amends current statutes concerning transparency related to emergency orders, delegated emergency powers and emergency spending.

CS/CS/SB 2006 specifies that when a local government deprives a person of a constitutional right, a fundamental liberty or property to address an emergency, the local government bears the burden of proving that the exercise of government power is narrowly tailored, serves a compelling government interest and accomplishes the intended goal through the least intrusive means. The bill also provides that an emergency order issued by a political subdivision automatically expires 10 days after its issuance unless extended by a majority vote of the political subdivision's governing body. In the event the governing body of the political subdivision is unable to convene before the expiration of the emergency order due to the impacts of a hurricane or other weather-related natural disaster, the 10-day period is tolled until the governing body is able to convene. However, an emergency order issued under this section may not be in effect for more than 30 days unless the governing body approves an extension of the order. The bill authorizes local governments to meet virtually for the limited purpose of ratifying the extension of an emergency order and also suspends the in-person quorum requirements of any law, local ordinance or charter provision in the case of such emergencies. Additionally, the bill addresses curfews imposed by local governments by allowing individuals to commute to and from work despite the emergency curfew.

CS/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 governments are required to post any emergency orders on a specially dedicated webpage accessible through a conspicuous link on the local government's homepage. 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.

The bill provides that whenever a state agency or political subdivision accepts assistance in aid of or for the purpose of emergency prevention, recovery, mitigation, preparedness and management other than emergency response, the agency or political subdivision must submit to the Legislature, in advance, a detailed spending plan for the money. When the advanced 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. This requirement does not apply to the receipt of funds received from any agency, department or other affiliated entity of the federal government as part of an expedited worksheet in anticipation of emergency response expenditures. For emergency response activities, including emergency response that includes emergency protective measures or debris removal, the bill requires that the agency or political subdivision must submit to the Legislature a report of all expenditures in aggregate categories incurred in the emergency response no later than 30 days after the expenditure is incurred. The entity must also submit a copy of any project worksheet submitted to Federal Emergency Management Agency within seven days of when the document is submitted to FEMA.

The House companion, CS/HB 7047, includes many of the same provisions as the Senate bill relating to spending plans, posting of emergency orders on the local government webpage and emergency expenditure reporting requirements but differs slightly in its approach to local government emergency orders. CS/HB 7047 imposes the same “strict scrutiny” standard on local government emergency orders that “restrict individual liberties” as does the Senate bill. CS/HB 7047 specifically defines 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 Emergency Management Act or Chapter 381, Florida Statutes (relating to public health emergencies) that applies to all residents within the political subdivision and limits the rights or liberties of individuals and businesses. Similar to the Senate bill, a significant emergency order issued by a local government must be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling public health or safety purpose and be limited in duration, applicability and scope to reduce any infringement on individual liberty to the greatest extent possible. The bill provides that a significant emergency order automatically expires seven days after issuance and may be extended by a majority vote of the governing body of the local government as necessary, in seven-day increments but only for a maximum total duration of 42 days. If a significant emergency order expires, the local government cannot issue a “substantially similar” order. Additionally, CS/HB 7047 authorizes the governor to invalidate an emergency order issued by a local government. Unlike its Senate companion, the House bill does not include authorization for automatic approval of virtual meetings; nor does it make a distinction between weather-related emergencies and other health-related emergencies.

CS/CS/SB 2006 passed the Senate (27-9) and is now awaiting action by the House. CS/HB 7047 is on Second Reading in the House. (Dudley)