SJLF Files Amicus Brief Challenging Florida’s House Bill 1

On July 8th, 2022 SJLF filed an amicus brief on behalf of ten leading professors in the fields of local government law and local autonomy. The amicus supports a coalition of cities in Florida as they seek to challenge Florida’s House Bill 1 (“HB1”).

HB 1 is but one of a series of bills in Florida that aims to restrict the power of cities and counties to make policy decisions responsive to the needs of local residents. HB1, specifically, abrogates cities’ control over their own budgets by allowing an unelected “Administration Commission” to take control of the city’s budget if officials lower police spending for any reason. As such, it stymies localities’ attempts to innovate alternative methods of ensuring public safety, and explicitly takes aim at supporters of the Black Lives Matter Movement and Defund the Police. 

Sarah Swan, a Rutgers Law School professor with expertise in local governance (previously at Florida State University) said of the amicus brief, “By stripping away the power of municipalities to respond to their residents’ needs, HB1 disregards the law and tradition of home rule in Florida and blunts the most direct and effective form of democracy – local governance.” 

SJLF’s amicus brief highlights the long history of cities’ local autonomy in Florida, tracing decades of Florida decisions that enshrine the right of cities to make their own budgetary decisions. It argues that HB1 disregards and undermines the grant of authority to localities in a way that chills local governmental decision-making and retaliates against political choices that don’t align with the Florida legislature.  

Fellows Emily Olivencia-Audet and Emily Barber collaborated with attorneys at the Public Rights Project and law professors to file this amicus brief.  Public Rights Project’s challenge against HB1 “is really getting at some of those first principles around how the Florida constitution structures local government. The state has no role to play in overriding municipal decisions,” said Jonathan Miller, litigation director with the Public Rights Project, who represents plaintiff cities in this case. Public Rights Project is dedicated to protecting the freedom of local cities and counties to innovate new methods of public safety, including those that decrease police funding and prioritize community-based safety methods, a goal well-aligned with SJLF’s mission to shrink the carceral state. 

The amicus brief was filed at the Circuit Court of the 2nd Judicial District in Leon County, Florida. Read it in full here.