Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Friday allowing police officers to park their law enforcement vehicles in residential neighborhoods.
The bill (SB 476), sponsored by Clearwater Republican Ed Hooper will prohibit condominium, homeowners and cooperative associations from creating bylaws preventing law enforcement officers from parking their official vehicles in community areas where they would normally have a right to park. It applies to homeowners, tenants, or guests of the homeowner.
Hooper’s legislation was prompted by reports of a Clearwater police officer who faced hundreds of dollars in fines last summer for violating an HOA rule in an East Lake Woodlands subdivision for parking her police car in her driveway. While the HOA later created an exemption for the officer, future homeowners with government-issued cars may face the same penalties.
The Florida Sheriffs Association supported the measure, with Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert “Bobby” Schultz at the Session’s start saying it’s “ridiculous” that the Legislature has to step in.
“You will stop crime by having a marked vehicle in these neighborhoods,” he said in October.
Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson Jr. supports the bill and said that it should be common sense not to penalize or cause “frivolous aggravation” towards officers working in a community.
Hooper, a retired firefighter, has not shied away from first responder issues during his time in the Legislature. This year, he is sponsoring, among others, a bill creating the First Responders Suicide Deterrence Task Force (SB 1586).
State law says HOA’s can prohibit commercial vehicles from parking in driveways but an opinion issued in 2005 by then-State Attorney Charlie Crist said law enforcement vehicles are not considered commercial. But the HOA had also apparently banned government vehicles from parking in the community’s driveways.
Rep. Chip LaMarca, a Broward County Republican, carried the House companion version (HB 307). Hooper’s version passed both chambers unanimously before getting the Governor’s stamp.
LaMarca said the bill was important for law enforcement and public safety: “Arbitrary rules” from HOAs “do not allow a law enforcement officer who protects us every day” to park their cars in their neighborhoods.
The parking bill is one of multiple law enforcement-related bills filed and sponsored by Democratic and Republican legislators this Session. This one passed unanimously at every stage in the House and Senate with minimal questions.
The signed law goes into effect immediately.
The Associated Press contributed to this post. Republished with permission.