Don’t show up to a gun fight armed with plastic bags unless, that is, you’re bracing to do battle over state preemption in the Florida Legislature.
Democrats have pre-filed two 2020 bills seeking to impose home rule over gun laws and in the regulation of plastic shopping bags and foam containers.
After Republicans proposed 50-plus preemption-related bills during the 2019 legislative session – adopting at least four – turnabout is fair play, even if the only time most home rule bills will see the light of day in the GOP-controlled Legislature is whatever notice they garner during the pre-filing period.
Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, pre-filed Senate Bill 182, which would dispense with language in Florida statute that forbids municipalities from governing items such as plastic shopping bags and foam containers.
“By removing this language we give home rule back to cities and counties, allowing them to decide what best fits their needs,” Stewart said in a statement. “Coastal or lakefront communities may wish to ban these containers to reduce pollution that negatively affects other sectors of their economies such as tourism.”
Florida is one of 13 states that preempts municipal governments from adopting local bans on single-use plastic containers.
In 2008, Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law a requirement that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEC) complete an analysis on whether the state should have a state-wide bag ban.
That law also prohibited any local government from passing a law banning or regulating plastic bags until the DEC filed its report. The DEC has since filed its report but lawmakers have taken no action and the preemption remains in place.
Stewart filed a similar 2019 bill, SB 88, and Reps. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, and Michael Grieco, D-Miami Beach, co-sponsored a companion House bill, HB 6033, but neither got committee hearings.
Meanwhile, HB 711, sponsored by Rep. Toby Overdorf, R-Stuart, which imposed a five-year suspension of local bans of plastic straws, was adopted by the House 87-23 and the Senate, 24-15.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, citing legislative overreach, vetoed the bill, admonishing his Republican colleagues that “the state should simply allow local communities to address this issue through the political process. Citizens who oppose plastic straw ordinances can seek recourse by electing people who share their views.”
But DeSantis signed into law at least six other preemption bills, including:
HB 829: If a local government passes an ordinance that’s already covered by state law and is sued, the municipality must pay attorney’s fees for the winning side in the dispute.
HB 405: Bans local governments from passing stronger ordinances to restrict the “land application” of “biosolids,” leaving regulation exclusively to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection , which is still developing its requirements for sludge spreading.
HB 7103: Requires that any citizen or group that challenges a land-use and development proposal in court must pay all attorney’s fees if they lose.
HB 1159: Prohibits local governments from requiring landowners get a permit to prune, trim, or remove “dangerous” trees on private property or requiring someone to replant a tree to replace a tree that has been removed.
Among the most prominent state preemption laws in Florida is the 1987 prohibition barring cities and counties from passing gun regulations that are stricter than state firearms laws. In 2011, lawmakers added penalties that could be imposed on local governments and officials who violate the prohibition.
Ten cities, including Tallahassee, challenged the 2011 penalties and in July, Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson, in a 15-page ruling, found the punitive measures to be unconstitutional. Attorney General Ashley Moody has appealed that ruling.