Union representatives, environmentalists, LGBTQ supporters and others gathered on Capitol Hill Thursday to condemn legislative attacks on autonomy that are killing progressive policies at the local level.
The pre-emptions are designed to overturn local government bans on single-use plastic and foam containers and so-called conversion therapy; protect trees and coral reefs; impose labor laws favorable to workers; and promote the safe use of firearms in local communities.
Representative Anna Eskamani, a Democrat from Orange County, called for a “repelathon” to reverse the wave of preemptive bills that “demonize local governments” and impose the will of the state over local objections .
“The harsh reality is that corporate interests, especially in this legislative process, have exploited preemption to maintain high profit margins,” Eskamani said, adding that the prescriptions concerned are designed to improve public health, fairness and security. “We need to restore autonomy and empower local voices to make local choices. “
Senator Gary Farmer, a Democrat from Broward, is sponsoring legislation to slow the pace of pre-emption bills by setting high bars for their passage.
Florida Integrity, a non-partisan political research group, released a report this month claiming that pre-emption of self-government has become endemic and most often suppresses policies adopted in democratic-leaning urban areas.
A few pre-emption bills that have achieved notoriety would overturn a Florida Keys ban on certain sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate that kill corals; revoke the prohibitions on the use of therapy for minors that purports to change a person’s sexual orientation; block bans on single-use plastics that pollute local waterways; and block local gun control ordinances.
Others would prevail over local regulation of rent stabilization, vacation rentals, tree pruning, telecommunications, and minimum wage and sick leave practices.
Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, also a Democrat from Orange County, is co-sponsoring legislation to restore local control over sick leave and minimum wage orders. He said Florida conservatives were not in touch with everyday Floridians when it came to self-reliance. Representative Ben Diamond, a Democrat from Pinellas, added that they were betraying the GOP’s longstanding claim to favor a small government.
“We understand and we know, as do a qualified majority of Floridians who have been repeatedly questioned on this issue, that the government is most effective and most responsive where it is closest to the people, and that ‘ is in our cities and counties, ”says Smith.
“Their preemptions are so comprehensive and they mess up so many problems in local government, sometimes the sponsors of these preemptions themselves don’t even know what they are having an impact and what they are doing.”
“It goes against all those conservative principles that the government closest to the people serves the people best. We have to keep reminding people of this, ”said Diamond.
“A lot of these preemptive bills are driven by big industries and big vested interests that just don’t want to allow us to have effective local representation and local government, and we’re fed up with it. Our fellow citizens are fed up. It is time for the people who serve here to start listening to those on the front lines of these issues and trying to resolve them.
Deborah Foote, director of government affairs and policy for the Sierra Club of Florida, said lawmakers are also removing local will by placing the burden of all legal fees on a plaintiff who does not win, as in the case of a person local government that challenges a developer over land use and losses, or a local government that challenges the state to no avail.
“Citizens don’t have the deep pockets that businesses have, and municipalities can’t compete with state resources,” Foote said. “All of this affects our ability to fight climate change, urban sprawl and pollution that impact the quality of our water. “
The AFL-CIO, the American Heart Association, Equality Florida, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Florida Latina Advocacy Network, Local Progress, New Florida Majority, Organize Florida, Sierra Club, the International Union of Northern Workers also supported Thursday the anti-preemption group. America, Florida Local Unions 517, 630 and 1652, and SurfRiders Foundation.
Due to an editing error, a quote from Rep. Smith in the original story has been incorrectly attributed. It has been corrected.