We’ve always said local governments do a better job of deciding what is best for their citizens. Leaving decision-making to local governments presents the best opportunity for feedback from the people those decisions impact.
Unfortunately, some lawmakers in Tallahassee are bent on making those decisions for everyone and siphoning the power away from county and city governments. And, while there are rare occasions when one law for all local governments can simplify things, the trend in Tallahassee eats at home rule and gives powerful lobbyists more influence.
Integrity Florida recently released an in-depth report that looks at the strategy of “preemption” by the Florida Legislature.
“The use of preemption as a strategy by the Florida Legislature has become heavy handed,” said Ben Wilcox, Integrity Florida research director wrote in the report. “It’s like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly and its largely driven by the campaign contributions and lobbying of corporate special interests.”
Integrity Florida is a nonpartisan research institute and government watchdog with a goal of promoting integrity in government.
Some examples of bills filed in 2019 that would preempt local government decision-making include:
• CS/SB82: would prohibit local governments from regulating vegetable gardens on residential property. It contends such regulations are unenforceable.
• CS/CS/HE 7103 would require a county to provide incentives to fully offset all costs to the developer of its affordable housing contribution; review the application for completeness and issue a letter within a specified period after receiving an application for approval of a development permit or order and require the holder of certain impact fee credits to be entitled to a benefit if a local government increases its impact fee rates.
• CS/CS/HB 987 says a state regulation of vacation rentals requires the operator of such rentals to maintain specific liability insurance and revises application requirements for a vacation rental license among other things.
One bill that perhaps got the most statewide attention was one regulating the use of plastic straws. Ten Florida cities already had passed ordinances regulating the use of plastic straws, yet the Legislature sought to pass a law encompassing all Florida cities and counties.
Senate Bill 588 would have required a moratorium on local bills and require the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a study (at our expense we presume) to evaluate the environmental impact of single-use straws and report back by 2024. It would fine a local government $24,000 if it makes its own law on straws.
And, just for good measure, it tacks on a decree at the end of the bill that regulates over-the-counter propriety drugs and cosmetics to the state.
This is called bundling when a bill or amendment contains more than one subject in order to give a law that might not be popular a better chance to pass.
Integrity cites, and we agree, the good things about preemption is that businesses would have a uniform law to go by and that local governments have to meet or exceed state requirements on an issue.
But, taking away a local government’s power to make its own laws is not a good thing. We have always agreed with the Integrity report that says government is most effective when held accountable at the local level.
Tallahassee needs to back off and allow counties and cities to decide what is best for their citizens.
An editorial from the Charlotte Sun.