Florida lawmakers, stop eroding home rule | Guest editorial – Sun Sentinel
One of the more appealing aspects of living in Florida is that it is such a diverse state, geographically and culturally. The Panhandle has little in common with Central Florida, which is quite different from South Florida. The old saying about the Sunshine State — “The farther south you go, the further North you are” — rings true to this day.
So why are so many lawmakers in the Capitol intent on treating Florida as a homogeneous entity?
Continuing a trend that has gained steam in recent years, the Legislature this session is considering several bills that would strip counties and municipalities of their ability to govern themselves. These proposed state laws would preempt what is known as “home rule,” a provision that was enshrined in the 1968 Florida Constitution and was bolstered five years later with the passage the Municipal Home Rule Powers Act (MHRPA), which specifically states that local governments should be able to act unless otherwise provided by law.
Tallahassee, though, has been steadily shrinking that sphere of local autonomy. In the last few years Florida has passed laws that punish local governments that adopt gun restrictions; limit the ability of municipalities to regulate vacation rentals, businesses, and building and land use; and prohibit local bans on plastic bags, among other issues. The Florida League of Cities has identified at least nine preemption bills it is opposing this session.
Preemption has perhaps no greater advocate than Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican who seemingly believes that his personal conflicts with local government deserve a statewide solution. When he bought an investment property on Florida’s east coast but was unable to rent it because of local rules, he filed a bill to eliminate local regulation of vacation rentals. When he built a three-car garage in Sarasota, he