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. 30 31 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 32 33 Section 1. Section 16.65, Florida Statutes, is created to 34 read: 35 16.65 Matters of great governmental concern.— 36 (1) LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS AND INTENT.— 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.