How Florida lawmakers sided with big government and rock mines over citizens | Editorial

Two Pasco residents gave up their legal fight after lawmakers changed the rules and made it too risky to keep going.
Pasco County approval of the Lago Verde mine remains mired in litigation, but on Nov. 28, commissioners will be asked to approve a second nearby mine off U.S. 41 in north-central Pasco. Douglas R. Clifford  |  Tampa Bay Times
Pasco County approval of the Lago Verde mine remains mired in litigation, but on Nov. 28, commissioners will be asked to approve a second nearby mine off U.S. 41 in north-central Pasco. Douglas R. Clifford | Tampa Bay Times
Published August 23

They fought the Pasco County rock mines for six years. It took one sentence in a new state law to force them to give up. Once again, the Florida Legislature has rigged the game against the little guy who dares to challenge government decisions.

Robert J. Howell and Myles Friedland filed lawsuits in 2013 and 2017 that challenged Pasco County’s approval of two rock mines in north-central Pasco County. They argued the mines violated the county’s land use rules that are supposed to protect from development’s impact properties designated as agricultural, residential or environmentally sensitive. While the state already has gutted growth management, one of the last tools Floridians have to preserve their communities is filing lawsuits to make the case that comprehensive land use plans are being violated.

Now even that avenue has been effectively blocked. In May, the Florida Legislature added into a controversial bill a requirement that the loser pay the opponent’s legal fees in lawsuits questioning whether a development order is inconsistent with a comprehensive land use plan. The change was promoted by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and HB 7103 was signed into law in June by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The day before the governor signed the bill over the objections of environmentalists, Howell and Friedland dropped their lawsuits. They could not afford to take the risk that they could lose and owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs.

It’s tough enough for the little guy to fight big government. It’s next to impossible when the Florida Legislature changes the rules to favor Goliath over David.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news

Advertisement