Panama City Beach likely will not appeal court ruling on scooters

By John Breslin | Oct 13, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – A beach resort city will lodge no further appeal against a court decision knocking down its regulations over the hiring of scooters.

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – A beach resort city will lodge no further appeal against a court decision knocking down its regulations over the hiring of scooters.

The 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee ruled against Panama City Beach and Bay County, stating they did not have the powers to force those who rent scooters to wear safety vests or to order rental companies to carry minimum insurance coverage.

These ordinances were part of a package of safety measures linked to the city’s popularity as a spring break destination.

But the three-judge panel unanimously ruled that the ordinances “pre-empted” powers already vested in the state of Florida.

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The city and county argued they should be able to impose the requirements because of "special conditions" linked to tourists operating the scooters in a dangerous manner.

"Things like a road outage, a parade, a hurricane, a sporting event, a protest, a street festival, and the like would fall under the definition of special conditions," said the ruling. “For better or for worse, tourists on a beach, even if misbehaving, do not meet the definition of a special condition in the state of Florida."

It continued, “Any solution to the local governments' concerns with tourists on rented motor vehicles not wearing safety vests or having insurance lies with the Legislature."

The appeals court sided with Classy Cycles Inc., operating as California Cycles. The ruling overturned an earlier circuit court judgment.

Panama City Beach’s legal counsel has recommended the city not appeal the district court decision. City Attorney Amy Myers told the Panama City News Herald that she has spoken with all council members, and they agree with the decision.

"This was a three-judge opinion, it was unanimous, and that must have factored into this decision," Kraig Conn, deputy general counsel with the Florida League of Cities, told the Florida Record.

“We are not involved in the case, but the city called us and I simply said that if the city was going to further appeal then we would write a amicus brief,” Conn said. “I believe the city is probably not going to appeal.”

He said the Florida League of Cities is “probably” not opposed to the city’s position that it should be able to introduce ordinances on scooter rental safety and insurance.

“I am not aware of other cities with these types of regulations,” Conn said, “but that is not to say they do not exist, with some form of regulation or insurance requirement.”

Conn said the judges’ ruling relating to pre-emption, meaning the state, through its Legislature, has the power to introduce certain powers that override the powers of individual cities. It prevents cities from going beyond state law.

The Florida League of Cities had recommended against appealing the decision out of concern it could erode home rule authority of cities in other cases, Panama City Beach Mayor Mike Thomas told the News Herald.

"They didn’t think it was worth the risk," Thomas said.

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