Sarasota Herald-Tribune Editorial Board
Sarasota Herald Tribune
Jan. 8, 2018
Legislating in a state with 21 million residents is, no doubt, difficult. In light of Florida’s limits on generating tax dollars, senators and representatives often find themselves committing the political equivalent of robbing Peter to pay Paul — raiding so-called trust funds to shore up the general-revenue budget and shifting the burden of providing services, including education, to local governments.
However, the Legislature could easily avoid making matters worse in 2018 by abandoning its “Tallahassee knows best” mindset.
The Republican-dominated Legislature has in recent years employed “pre-emption” to replace locally crafted ordinances with statewide laws. Pre-emption has typically focused on local laws that state legislators — and lobbyists and their patrons — don’t like. The Legislature has intervened on a wide range of matters — liberalizing gun laws, restricting local fertilizer rules and the like.
Bills pending in the Legislature, which opens its session today, would prevent cities and counties from regulating short-term home rentals, overtake local ordinances on trees and impose significant limits on community redevelopment organizations.
These bills and the pre-emption trend are troubling. They ignore and undermine the principle of home rule, which was established in 1968 when voters approved wide-ranging changes to the Florida Constitution. The establishment of home rule, which enables local governments to enact ordinances and policies without state approval (so long as they don’t conflict with Florida law or its constitution), was prescient.