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Senate Subcommittee OKs Proposal to Dissolve All Local Business Regulations

TALLAHASSEE – A Senate subcommittee approved a sweeping state preemption bill that would dissolve all local business regulations by 2021 and make it virtually impossible for city and county governments to reauthorize them or adopt new ones.

House Bill 3, sponsored by Rep. Michael Grant, R-Port Charlotte, endorsed in a 9-5 partisan vote Thursday by the House Business & Professions Subcommittee, would also prohibit local governments from imposing their own occupational and professional licensing requirements beginning July 1.

The bill would eliminate all local business regulations as of July 1, 2021, and then require an economic impact analysis and a supermajority approval every two years for them to be reauthorized.

Grant said the mushrooming growth in local ordinances is creating a patchwork of intricate and intrusive laws and regulations. It is “a concern across the state,” he said.

As an example, he cited the city of Key West’s recently adopted ban on suntan lotions that contain oxybenzone or octinoxate because the chemicals could harm the area’s coral reefs.

It’s over-kill, he said.

“Somebody told me today you’d need a half-a-billion people to jump in the ocean, all slathered in sunscreen lotion, to have an impact on the reef,” Grant said.

State oversight standardizes regulation and is more fair, Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, said. Many business owners don’t live in the city or county where their business is, meaning they can’t vote on matters that affect them, he said.

Many issues affect people “beyond the borders” of a city or a county, Fine said, “whether it’s watershed issues or Uber — those issues are best resolved” by state legislators than by city and county elected officials.

But “home rule” gives different communities the authority and flexibility to adopt laws and regulations local people want and support, objected Rep. Ramon Alexander, D-Tallahassee, noting rural, urban and coastal areas all have different needs and priorities.

While the bill received preliminary endorsement from the subcommittee, it still must go before the House Commerce Committee and the Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee if it is to make into onto chamber floors for a binding vote when the 60-day legislative session begins March 5.

At least two supporters voted for the bill with reservations, saying it would need to be further reviewed and revised for them to ultimately approve it.

Rep. David Smith, R-Winter Springs, questioned how the bill would affect the 60 local government ordinances that regulate pet-breeding businesses, or “puppy mills.”

Grant acknowledged that he expects to hear concerns about the bill and is willing to consider tweaks, but that he will resist any attempts to dramatically revise it.

The Florida Retail Federation, Associated Industries of Florida and Florida Chamber of Commerce support HB 3. The Florida Association of Counties, Florida League of Cities and an array of labor unions, environmental organizations and civil-rights groups oppose it.

Florida AFL-CIO lobbyist Rich Templin said HB 3 is yet another preemption bill shifting control from elected local officials, who approve laws in response to their constituents’ desires, to state legislators, who are more influenced by lobbyists for business interests in Tallahassee.

“What is happening here is an ideology,” Templin said, “and the use of a process to force that ideology on everyone across the state of Florida regardless of the nature of their community.”

Sierra Club lobbyist David Cullen cited concerns about septic tanks leaking into Indian River Lagoon as an example of how state lawmakers have failed to respond to an issue local governments and residents are clamoring for them to address.

The Legislature “has been unable for years to pass a simple septic-tank inspection program,” he said. “We think it should be done at the state level, but to date it has not.”

State preemption has its place when there is a “floor below which no body is allowed to fall,” Cullen said, but HB 3 “makes a ceiling over which no locality is able to improve its environmental situation.”

This piece appeared in the Watchdog.org and was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

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