Florida Senate - 2021                                     SB 102
       By Senator Burgess
       20-02270-21                                            2021102__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to Attorney General designation of
    3         matters of great governmental concern; creating s.
    4         16.65, F.S.; providing legislative findings and
    5         intent; providing definitions; authorizing the
    6         Attorney General to declare that a matter is a matter
    7         of great governmental concern; providing that the
    8         Attorney General has the sole authority to file
    9         certain civil proceedings; authorizing the Attorney
   10         General to investigate certain matters; authorizing
   11         the Attorney General to institute or intervene in
   12         certain civil proceedings; authorizing the Attorney
   13         General to take certain actions in certain civil
   14         proceedings; providing that a declaration by the
   15         Attorney General that a matter is a matter of great
   16         governmental concern abates or stays certain civil
   17         proceedings; providing for the tolling of certain
   18         statutes of limitations; requiring certain entities to
   19         provide notice to the Attorney General; providing
   20         certain settlements and resolutions are void;
   21         providing that certain declarations do not constitute
   22         final agency action subject to review; providing that
   23         the Department of Legal Affairs is exempt from certain
   24         provisions for certain purposes; authorizing a
   25         governmental entity or its attorneys to apply to a
   26         court for recovery of attorney fees and costs;
   27         requiring a court to consider certain factors in
   28         calculating the amount of attorney fees; providing an
   29         effective date.
   31  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   33         Section 1. Section 16.65, Florida Statutes, is created to
   34  read:
   35         16.65Matters of great governmental concern.—
   37         (a)The Legislature finds that:
   38         1.There have been several events that have led to
   39  extensive litigation by multiple governmental entities in the
   40  state arising from the same facts, circumstances, or conduct or
   41  similar causes of action. This litigation has been difficult to
   42  resolve in a timely and expeditious manner because of the number
   43  and different types of governmental entities involved.
   44         2.It is in the interest of the state that a single
   45  official represent governmental entities in civil proceedings in
   46  matters of great governmental concern to maximize recoveries and
   47  minimize costs.
   48         3.The Attorney General is the state’s chief legal officer
   49  and is the official that should be responsible for the
   50  prosecution, management, and coordination of any civil
   51  proceedings brought by governmental entities in matters of great
   52  governmental concern.
   53         4.The failure to have a single official responsible in
   54  matters of great governmental concern undermines fairness and
   55  efficiency and risks inconsistent or incongruent results, which
   56  will delay recovery and will undermine governmental entities’
   57  ability to respond to matters of great governmental concern.
   58         (b)It is the intent of the Legislature to establish a
   59  procedure for use by the Attorney General in addressing matters
   60  of great governmental concern. This act is not intended to
   61  expand or change existing law with respect to the power and
   62  authority of the Attorney General.
   63         (2)DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section, unless the
   64  context otherwise requires, the term:
   65         (a)“Governmental entity” means the state and any
   66  department, agency, political subdivision, unit of government,
   67  or school district thereof.
   68         (b)“Matter of great governmental concern” means any fact,
   69  circumstance, or conduct that has caused substantial economic
   70  loss or other harm of a similar nature to governmental entities
   71  in five or more counties in this state.
   72         (3)AUTHORITY.—
   73         (a)The Attorney General may declare a matter to be a
   74  matter of great governmental concern. Upon such declaration, the
   75  Attorney General has the sole authority to file a civil
   76  proceeding on behalf of the affected governmental entities in
   77  the state unless and until the Attorney General rescinds that
   78  declaration.
   79         (b)The Attorney General may investigate a matter before
   80  and after declaring that the matter is a matter of great
   81  governmental concern. In any investigation and civil proceeding
   82  commenced pursuant to this section, it is the duty of all public
   83  officers and their deputies, assistants, clerks, subordinates,
   84  and employees to render and furnish to the Attorney General,
   85  when so requested, assistance and all information available in
   86  their official capacity.
   87         (c)The Attorney General may institute or intervene in any
   88  civil proceeding in state or federal court, including any
   89  pending appeal, on behalf of a governmental entity to seek any
   90  relief afforded at law or in equity, under state or federal law,
   91  pertaining to a matter of great governmental concern.
   92         (d)The Attorney General may consolidate, dismiss, release,
   93  settle, or take action that he or she believes to be in the
   94  public interest in any civil proceeding in state or federal
   95  court pertaining to a matter of great governmental concern.
   96         (e)A declaration by the Attorney General that a matter is
   97  a matter of great governmental concern shall operate to abate or
   98  stay any civil proceeding in state or federal court pertaining
   99  to the matter of great governmental concern filed by a
  100  governmental entity unless and until the Attorney General takes
  101  an action in such proceeding.
  102         (f)Any statute of limitations under the laws of the state
  103  affecting a claim by a governmental entity shall be tolled for
  104  the pendency of a declaration that a matter is a matter of great
  105  governmental concern or 1 year, whichever is shorter.
  106         (g)Upon learning of a declaration that a matter is a
  107  matter of great governmental concern, all governmental entities
  108  then a party to any affected civil proceeding shall provide
  109  notice to the Attorney General of the existence of any such
  110  civil proceeding, including the style of the action, the case
  111  number, and the court where such proceeding is pending. Any
  112  settlement or resolution of the civil proceeding by a
  113  governmental entity taken after a declaration without the
  114  consent of the Attorney General is void.
  115         (h)The declaration that a matter is a matter of great
  116  governmental concern does not constitute a final agency action
  117  subject to review pursuant to ss. 120.569 and 120.57. For
  118  purposes of this subsection, the Department of Legal Affairs is
  119  exempt from s. 120.57(3).
  120         (4)ATTORNEY FEES.—
  121         (a)If, before a declaration that a matter is a matter of
  122  great governmental concern, a governmental entity retains
  123  attorneys to represent it, the governmental entity or its
  124  attorneys may apply to the court where the civil proceeding is
  125  being prosecuted by the Attorney General, or in the circuit
  126  court in and for Leon County, Florida, if no such proceeding
  127  exists, to receive from any recovery its reasonable attorney
  128  fees and costs incurred in connection with such representation
  129  before the declaration.
  130         (b)In calculating the amount of any reasonable attorney
  131  fees, a court shall consider the following factors:
  132         1.The time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty
  133  of the question involved, and the skill requisite to perform the
  134  legal service properly.
  135         2.The likelihood, if apparent, that the acceptance of the
  136  particular employment will preclude other employment by the
  137  attorney.
  138         3.The fee customarily charged in the locality for similar
  139  legal services.
  140         4.The amount involved and the results obtained.
  141         5.The time limitation imposed by the governmental entity
  142  or the circumstances.
  143         6.The nature and length of the professional relationship
  144  with the governmental entity.
  145         7.The experience, reputation, and ability of the attorney
  146  performing the legal services.
  147         8.Whether the fee is fixed or contingent.
  148         Section 2. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.