Florida wants to get rid of anonymous neighborhood code snitches

The House measure next will go to the State Affairs Committee.

Florida wants to get rid of anonymous neighborhood code snitches
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Anonymous tips would no longer be justification to begin code-enforcement investigations in many cases, under a proposal advancing in the House and already approved by the Senate.

The House Public Integrity & Elections Committee on Monday backed a bill (HB 883) that would change county and municipal code-enforcement rules so that inspectors and enforcement officers would be blocked from initiating investigations unless people reporting alleged code violations provide their names and addresses.

Code enforcement officers could still take action on anonymous tips if they have reason to believe the violations present imminent threats to public health, safety, or welfare or may result in the imminent destruction of habitat or sensitive resources.

House sponsor Toby Overdorf, R-Palm City, said the bill is intended to stop “frivolous” complaints and to keep code-enforcement officers from becoming a “pawn” in community disputes.

A House staff analysis said local governments have adopted a variety of rules for taking complaints. “Many jurisdictions allow for the anonymous submission of complaints, while some require the complainant to provide identifying information,” the analysis said. “Code inspectors accept information initially provided in the complaints and may investigate the allegations made.”

The committee approved an amendment proposed by Rep. Dotie Joseph, D-North Miami, that would allow code enforcement officers to keep tips anonymous if people making complaints have a substantial fear of retaliation.

In voting against the amendment, Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, said it was well-intentioned but “guts” the bill. The Senate version of the bill (SB 60), sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island, was approved in a 27-11 vote last week.

All of the opposition came from Democrats.

The House measure next will go to the State Affairs Committee.

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