Local government attorneys, it’s time to revise your sign codes to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 576 U.S. __, 135 S. Ct. 2218, 192 L. Ed. 2d 236 (2015).
In this landmark case, Pastor Reed successfully sued the Town of Gilbert alleging violation of the First Amendment because the town’s code provided for greater restrictions on temporary event directional signs compared to other noncommercial signs like ideological and political signs. The court held that content-based laws, such as laws applying to temporary event directional signs, are presumptively unconstitutional and must meet a strict standard of review. To be held constitutional, they must be justified by a compelling governmental interest and be narrowly tailored to achieve it. A sign law is content-based when:
If the sign law is content neutral, the court explained that the standard of review is intermediate. The law must be justified by a substantial government interest such as legitimate aesthetic and traffic safety objectives.
In his concurring opinion, Justice Alito provided a non-exhaustive list of sign rules that are content neutral:
Based on this decision, local governments should avoid any content-based sign laws such as laws specific to political and real estate sale signs. This brings many challenges for local government attorneys who must revised sign codes. For example, if a municipality allows political signs for an upcoming election in its right-of-way, it must also allow other temporary signs as it cannot discriminate based on content.
Timeframe can also be an issue. Let’s say that temporary signs are allowed for 30 days, what happens to real estate sale signs and political signs which are based on an event? One could draft an ordinance to say that if a temporary sign pertains to an event, it should be removed within five days after the conclusion of the event. However, this would allow a temporary sign to be posted months before the event. This may work well for real estate sale signs, but not so much for other event-based temporary signs. I have studied and reviewed many revised sign codes to see what other cities have done to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, but I have not found one that solves the above-mentioned issue.
As you can see, this decision provides a few guidelines on what content-based signs are, but it also creates practical issues for local government attorneys revising sign codes.
Last year, the Florida Legislature created Section 189.069, Fla. Stat., (Chapter No. 2014-22, Laws of Florida), requiring special districts to maintain an official website. Under the provision, the website must include the following information by October 1, 2015:
If you have special district clients, don’t forget to tell them about these new requirements. To help ensure all required content is posted, use the Special District Website Requirement Self Checklist provided by the Special District Accountability Program. And don’t forget to provide the website address of your special district clients to the Program.
It’s that time of the year. The 2015 Florida Legislative Session starts today and will last until May 1. Over 1460 bills have been filed. Only a few will make it to the end of the session and become law. Below are bills of interest to attorneys and legal professionals. Keep an eye on them as they may impact your practice areas if they pass in a few months. For your convenience, I’ll provide a status update at the end of the legislative session.
HB 47 State Minimum Wage
HB 47 increases state minimum wage from $6.15 to $10.10. It provides that an employer may not pay an employee at a rate less than the state minimum wage. It deletes the requirement that only individuals entitled to receive federal minimum wage are eligible to receive state minimum wage. (Identical Bill: SB 114)
CS/SB 102 Digital Assets
Known as the “Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act,” this bill authorizes a personal representative to have access to specified digital assets and electronic communication of a decedent and provides compliance requirements to receive and collect digital assets. It also give a similar authorization to guardians, agents and trustees. (Similar Bill: HB 313)
CS/HB 113 Local Government Construction Preferences
This bill prohibits local ordinances and regulations from restricting competition for award of construction services based upon the location of the vendor’s office or place of business. It requires state colleges, school districts and other political subdivisions to make specified disclosures in competitive solicitation documents. (Similar Bill: SB 778)
SB 126 Social Media Privacy
SB 126 prohibits an employer from requesting or requiring access to a social media account of an employee or prospective employee. It also prohibits an employer from taking retaliatory personnel action for an employee’s refusal to allow access to his social media account. However, it provides that an employer is not prohibited from seeking access to social media accounts used primarily for the employer’s business purposes.
SB 150 Student Loans
This bill would require the Justice Administrative Commission and the Office of the Attorney General to implement a student loan assistance program to assist a career assistant state attorney, assistant public defender, assistant attorney general, or assistant statewide prosecutor in the repayment of eligible student loans. (Similar Bill: HB 45)
SB 462 Family Law
This bill provides that a collaborative law process commences when the parties enter into a collaborative law participation agreement. It prohibits a tribunal from ordering a party to participate in a collaborative law process over the party’s objection. SB 462 provides for confidentiality of communications made during the collaborative law process. (Similar law: HB 503)
HB 611 Residential Properties
HB 611 provides requirements relating to the request for an estoppel certificate by a unit or parcel owner including a 10-day timeframe to deliver the certificate. It also provides that an association waives any claim against a person or entity who would have relied in good faith upon the estoppel certificate if the association failed to deliver the certificate. It revises fee and supplemental fee requirements. (Identical Bill: SB 736)
As you can see I can’t cover all bills that may affect your practice areas. If you want to look and find bills, you can do a word or statute amended search under the Bills tab on the Florida House of Representatives website.
Are you looking for public records and sunshine laws? The Government-In-The-Sunshine Manual, a yearly publication written by the First Amendment Foundation, covers in great details the who, what, when, where and how of open government laws. It also provides for recourses and consequences when a public board or agency fails to apply public records and sunshine laws.
I know it’s only November. The Florida legislative session will not start until March. But if you want to submit a local bill, you have to get it ready now.
Local Bill Procedure
If you are not familiar with the legislative process, you probably wonder what is a local bill. A local bill is a proposed law that only affects a specific geographical area as opposed to a general bill that affects the state in its entirety. Typically, public agencies such as special districts and municipalities request local bills. Before introducing a local bill to the Florida legislature, an agency’s request must be heard by its county legislative delegation. Agencies must submit the following documents to their delegation before the scheduled hearing:
Once heard and approved by a majority vote of the delegation, the requesting agencies must publish a Notice of Legislation in a local newspaper at least 30 days prior to the introduction of the bill to the Florida legislature. They must also find a bill sponsor.
Local Bill Deadlines
Don’t forget to follow all your county legislative delegation deadlines. The delegations don’t make any exceptions! In Palm Beach County, the deadlines are as follows:
For more information about local bills, visit or call your county legislative delegation office.
* Picture by Ebyabe (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Have you heard about the Sunshine Law? No, it doesn’t refer to Florida’s beautiful weather, but to openness in government. Open government is necessary to ensure public trust, promote accountability and strengthen democracy. Open government is achieved by giving citizens access to government meetings and by making available for inspection public records. These rights are established in Article I, Section 24 of the Florida Constitution, and Chapters 286 and 119 of the Florida Statutes.
Government In The Sunshine Law
Florida’s Sunshine Law provides a basic right of access to most government proceedings of public boards, commissions and other governing bodies at both the state and local levels. It applies to elected and appointed boards, and to any gathering of two or more members of the same board to discuss matters that will come before the board for action. The Sunshine Law lists three basic requirements:
Public Records Law
The Public Records Law provides for a right of access to state and local government records or records of any private entity acting on their behalf. In the absence of a statutory exemption, the right to access applies to all material made or received by an agency in connection with its official business. Over the years, the definition of public records has evolved to include not just written documents, but also photographs, films, sound recordings and records stored in computers.
If you would like more information on these topics, the Government-In-The-Sunshine Manual, a yearly publication written by the First Amendment Foundation, covers in great details the who, what, when, where and how of open government laws. It also provides for recourses and consequences when a public board or agency fails to apply public records and sunshine laws.
Disclaimer: The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. Your Paralegal Help Desk's blogger is not an attorney and cannot give legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should immediately seek the advice of a licensed attorney in your state.