Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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At issue was whether Gadsden County is a “county in which a majority of voters have approved slot machines…in a countywide referendum held pursuant to a statutory or constitutional authorization after the effective date of this section” under Fla. Stat. 551.102(4). Under the section 551.104(1), the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering is authorized to issue licenses to conduct slot machine gaming to “eligible facilities,” as defined in section 551.102(4). However, under section 551.102(2), licenses are limited to facilities in counties where the voters have approved slot machines as provided by article X, section 23 of the Florida Constitution, which does not extend beyond the counties of Miami-Dade and Broward. The Division denied a slot machine permit to Gretna Racing, LLC, a horse track facility in Gadsden County, based on the Division’s conclusion that neither the requirements of section 551.102(2) nor section 551.102(4) had been satisfied. The First District Court of Appeal upheld the Division’s denial of the license. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, based on the law establishing the powers of non-charter counties and the provisions of chapter 551, Florida Statutes, the Division’s denial of the slot machine permit sought by Gretna Racing was correct because submission of the ballot question to the voters was not legally authorized. View "Gretna Racing, LLC v. Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation" on Justia Law

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Florida Public Utilities Company (FPUC), an electric utility that relies solely on wholesale purchase power agreements with other electric utilities, entered into a settlement agreement with the Office of Public Counsel (OPC) in resolution of its then-pending petition for an increase in base rates. The Florida Public Service Commission unanimously approved the settlement agreement. FPUC subsequently petitioned the Commission for approval of its fuel adjustment and purchased power cost recovery factors for the year 2016. Contrary to the terms of the settlement agreement, FPUC’s petition sought to recover costs associated with constructing a new interconnection with Florida Power & Light Company (FPL). The Commission ultimately approved the recovery of the entire FPL interconnection costs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Commission departed from the requirements of law by failing to properly consider and apply the terms of the settlement agreement with regard to FPUC’s petition; (2) the Commission erred in concluding that such construction capital expenditures are capable of recovery through fuel clause proceedings; and (3) the settlement agreement prohibited FPUC from petitioning the Commission for recovery of costs associated with the transmission interconnection project through fuel clause proceedings. View "Citizens of the State of Florida v. Graham" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the union that represented officers employed by the City of Miami’s police department (the Union) and the City of Miami (the City). After the City declared a “financial urgency” in 2010, the City notified the Union that it intended to implement changes to the CBA. When the parties were unable to come to an agreement, the City’s legislative body voted to unilaterally alter the terms of the CBA and adopted changes regarding wages, pension benefits, and other economic terms of employment. The Union filed an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge with the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC), arguing that the City acted improperly by unilaterally changing the CBA before completing the impasse resolution process provided for in Fla. Stat. 447.4095. PERC dismissed the Union’s ULP charge. The First District Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court quashed the First District’s decision, holding (1) an employer must demonstrate that funds are available from no other possible reasonable source before unilaterally modifying a CBA; and (2) modification can only be made after completing the impasse resolution process set forth in section 447.4095. View "Headley v. City of Miami" on Justia Law

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In 2016, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) filed a petition requesting that the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) approve FPL’s purchase of a power plant so that FPL could terminate its existing power purchase agreement with Cedar Bay. The Florida Industrial Power Users Group (FIPUG) and the Office of Public Counsel (OPC) intervened in the proceedings. OPC and FPL subsequently reached a negotiated settlement agreement and filed a motion for the Commission’s approval of the agreement. At a hearing on the petition FIPUG invoked the rule of sequestration of witnesses, codified in Fla. Stat. 90.616. The PSC denied the request, concluding that it had discretion as to whether to apply the rule in its proceedings. The PSC subsequently approved the settlement agreement. FIPUG appealed, arguing that the PSC erred in not sequestering the witnesses. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PSC had the discretion on whether to apply the Florida Evidence Code and, in particular, the rule of sequestration during its proceedings. View "Florida Industrial Power Users Group v. Graham" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Bradley Westphal suffered a severe work-related injury. The City of St. Petersburg provided temporary total disability benefits pursuant to Fla. Stat. 440.15(2). Westphal did not reach maximum medical improvement prior to the expiration of the 104-week limitation on temporary total disability benefits and thus filed a petition for benefits pursuant to Fa. Stat. 440.15(1). The Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) denied Westphal’s claim, thus leaving Westphal totally disabled at the cessation of temporary total disability benefits but not yet entitled to permanent total disability benefits because he could not prove he would still be totally disabled when he reached maximum medical improvement. Westphal appealed, arguing that section 440.15(2) was unconstitutional. The First District Court of Appeal “valiantly attempted to save the statute from unconstitutionality” by interpreting it so that Westphal would not be cut off from compensation after 104 weeks. The Supreme Court quashed the First District’s decision, holding that section 440.15(2)(a) is unconstitutional as applied to Westphal and all others similarly situated as a denial of access to courts under article I, section 21 of the Florida Constitution. View "Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg" on Justia Law

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The PSC approved the recovery of FPL's costs incurred through its joint venture with an oil and natural gas company to engage in the acquisition, exploration, drilling, and development of natural gas wells in Oklahoma. The court agreed with appellants that the PSC lacks the authority to allow FPL to recover the capital investment and operations costs of its partnership in the Woodford gas reserves through the rates it charges consumers. Because the PSC exceeded its statutory authority when approving recovery of FPL’s costs and investment in the Woodford Project, the court reversed the judgment. View "Citizens of the State of Florida v. Art Graham, etc." on Justia Law

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The Board challenged two separate orders of the PSC. The first order is a declaratory statement that the PSC issued in response to a petition filed by the City of Vero Beach, in which the PSC declared that the City has the right and obligation under territorial orders issued by the PSC to continue to provide electric service in the territory described in the orders (which includes unincorporated portions of the County) upon the expiration of the City’s franchise agreement with the County. The court rejected the County's challenges and held that the City had standing to seek this declaration from the PSC concerning territorial orders to which the City is a party and which the County had taken the position would be voided by the Franchise Agreement’s expiration, thereby effectively evicting the City. The court also held that the PSC’s declaration is within the PSC’s authority as the entity with exclusive and superior statutory jurisdiction to determine utility service areas, and that the declaration does not impermissibly grant the County’s property rights to the City or violate the statutory prohibition against the PSC affecting a franchise fee. The second order on appeal denies the County’s petition for a declaratory statement on the ground that it failed to meet applicable statutory requirements. The court agreed and affirmed this order without further comment. View "Bd. of Cnty. Comm'r Indian River Cnty. v. Art Graham, etc." on Justia Law

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After a traffic stop, Petitioner refused to submit to a blood-alcohol test. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) suspended Petitioner’s driver license for one year. Petitioner sought review, and a hearing officer upheld the suspension. On certiorari review of the administrative decision, the circuit court invalidated the suspension, finding that the hearing officer’s refusal to permit Petitioner’s counsel to ask more than two questions of Petitioner’s witness denied Petitioner due process. The circuit court directed DHSMV to set aside the suspension and reinstate Petitioner’s driver’s license. On second-tier certiorari review of the circuit court’s decision, the Fifth District Court of Appeal agreed that the hearing officer violated Petitioner’s due process rights but ruled that the circuit court was required to remand the case back to DHSMV for another administrative hearing. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that the Fifth District inappropriately exercised its certiorari jurisdiction to review the circuit court order. Remanded for reinstatement of the circuit court’s decision. View "Futch v. Fla. Dep’t of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the evidentiary standard of proof that applies in an initial license application proceeding under Florida’s Administrative Procedure Act. In 2011, a family day care licensed under Fla. Stat. 402.313 submitted an initial application for a large family child care home license under Fla. Stat. 402.3131. An administrative law judge (ALJ) recommended that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) grant a provisional large family child care license. DCF rejected the ALJ’s recommendation and denied the day care’s application for a large family child care home license. In so doing, DCF rejected the ALJ’s conclusion of law that the clear and convincing evidence standard applied to the denial of the day care’s initial license application, instead concluding that it needed only to produce competent substantial evidence of its stated reasons for denying the application. The Second District Court of Appeal reversed and remanded for DCF to enter a final order adopting the ALJ’s recommendation, concluding that the clear and convincing evidence standard applied. The Court quashed the Second District’s decision, holding that the preponderance of the evidence standard applied in this initial license application proceeding. View "Fla. Dep’t of Children & Families v. Davis Family Daycare Home" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a retired Tampa firefighter, filed a class action complaint against the Board of Trustees of the City Pension Fund for Firefighters and Police Officers in the City of Tampa (Board), claiming that the Board failed to pay benefits under a firefighter and police officer pension plan established by local law. Parker and the Board agreed to a settlement, which the trial court approved. The trial court subsequently determined that Petitioner and others similarly situated were entitled to reasonable attorneys’ fees. The Second District reversed the court’s decision to require the Board to pay the fees, instead concluding that the attorney’s fees were to be paid from the settlement proceeds. Specifically, the court concluded that the local law plan was “not part of the general statutory construct” of Fla. Stat. 175 and 185. The Supreme Court quashed the Second District’s decision, holding that the prevailing party attorney’s fees provisions of Fla. Stat. 175.061(5) and 185.05(5) are applicable to judicial proceedings to enforce claims under local law plans. View "Parker v. Bd. of Trs." on Justia Law