Integrity Florida today is releasing a new in-depth report examining the strategy of preemption employed by the Florida legislature to erode the home rule authority of the state’s local governments. The report, titled Preemption Strategy – The Attack on Home Rule in Florida, details how new, more aggressive types of preemption are increasingly used to weaken the power of local governments over vast areas of law and regulation.
“The use of preemption as a strategy by the Florida legislature has become heavy handed,” said Ben Wilcox, Integrity Florida Research Director. “It’s like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly and its largely driven by the campaign contributions and lobbying of corporate special interests.”
The report finds preemption has evolved from a practice that once involved narrow issues of regulation and was designed to align state and local laws to make sure there were no inconsistencies. Now new, more aggressive types of preemption are being practiced by states including Florida that reduce the home rule power of local governments.
The new forms of preemption include punitive provisions, which hold local governments and officials liable for violating state preemption legislation. In addition to blocking local governments’ action, punitive preemption subjects local governments and officials to penalties such as fines, damages and removal from office.
“Preemption interferes with voters’ ability to determine the direction of their own communities and receive adequate responses to local conditions,” said Alan Stonecipher, Integrity Florida Research Associate. “Preemption is being used by the legislature to block actions by what the legislative majority considers ‘rogue’ local governments.”
The use of preemption in the states, including Florida, is rising. No indications point to a decrease in the practice. In 2019, there were 45 bills filed containing some form of preemption. As of December 10th of last year, 16 bills had already been filed in advance of the 2020 legislative session.
The Integrity Florida report offers a series of key findings and policy options for consideration:
Key Findings Include:
- New preemptions are driven by partisan, ideological or special-interest motivations. Some state preemptions have been stimulated by corporate interests to block regulations they dislike.
- Use of preemption as a legislative strategy is increasing in Florida. Bills containing multiple preemptions are becoming common in the Florida Legislature.
- Business-funded corporate interest groups are using their considerable political influence, gained through campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures, to push preemption legislation in the Florida Legislature.
Policy Options Include:
- Require two-thirds or super-majority vote for passage of legislation that preempts local government authority (similar to what is required for local unfunded mandates and public record exemptions).
- Establish by rule or law a single-subject requirement for preemption legislation to prevent bundling.
- Prohibit any fines or punitive liabilities for local governments that violate legislative preemptions.