By a 27-11 vote, the Florida Senate passed a bill Thursday to curtail nuisance code complaints by requiring people to say who they are when they file a grievance.
SB 60, sponsored by Fleming Island Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradley, requires most code complaints made by ordinary citizens to be provided with the identifying information of the complainant.
If there is a threat of imminent destruction of natural resources or threat to health, welfare, and safety, the complaint could be anonymous. Otherwise, however, the complainant’s name would have to accompany the claim before any investigation can begin.
In committees, worry was voiced that this would set legitimate complainants up for retribution, such as from drug dealers or other nefarious sorts.
Despite assurances that a public records request would be required to reveal the identity of the aggrieved party, the bill still met with resistance at every committee stop.
Inspectors have the right to initiate investigations based on their own judgment, however. Exposed wiring in public places, downed fences by retention ponds, and other situations meeting the “clear and present danger” threshold could still be revealed via anonymous complaints under the proposed language.
The bill may be a cost-saver for local governments, at least if one buys the argument that fewer people will complain if it’s possible to find out their names.
“Local governments may experience a reduction in complaints filed due to individuals not wanting to provide personal identifying information. Thus, this may lead to less resources being utilized by local code enforcement,” asserted one committee analysis of Bradley’s bill.
A version of this bill (HB 883) is moving in the House sponsored by Rep. Toby Overdorf. It reported favorably at its first committee stop, the Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee. The State Affairs Committee will hear it next, followed by the Public Integrity & Elections Committee.