Integrity Florida is releasing a second in-depth report today examining the use of preemption by the Florida legislature to erode the home rule authority of the state’s local governments.
The report, titled Preemption Strategy 2.0 – The Attack on Home Rule in Florida, details how preemption was again used by the legislature in 2020 to weaken the power of local governments. It also finds that preemption by the executive branch of state government, while typically rare, became more frequent during Florida’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Preemption was used sparingly in the past to ensure some consistency in state and local laws,” said Ben Wilcox, Integrity Florida Research Director. “Now it’s become weaponized in Florida, largely driven by the campaign contributions and lobbying of corporate special interests.”
The report finds preemption was once again front and center in the 2020 legislative session with a total of 42 preemption bills filed, a number consistent with previous years. The use of preemption strategy in Florida amounts to a yearly attack on the home rule power of local governments.
The report finds new, aggressive preemption legislation has already been filed for the 2021 session. The new legislation includes proposals to preempt local regulation of seaports and energy infrastructure. There are also bills to create a process by which city government budget decisions involving the police can be reversed or amended at the state level.
The report also finds that in at least eight states, including Florida, local governments’ response to COVID-19 has been blocked by executive orders of governors.
“The pandemic has brought to the forefront another method of state preemption of local powers, in addition to legislative action – executive orders by governors,” said Integrity Florida Research Associate Alan Stonecipher. “Impeding local approaches to mitigation ties the hands of cities and counties and takes decision-making away from the government closest to the people.”
The Integrity Florida report offers a series of key findings and policy options for consideration:
Key Findings Include:
- Business-funded corporate interest groups used their considerable political influence, gained through campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures, to push a bill preempting local regulation of sunscreens through the 2020 Florida legislative session.
- Preemption bills filed for the 2021 legislative session include some familiar ones that have been proposed in previous years but failed to pass, including bills preempting regulation of vacation rentals, home-based businesses, and red-light cameras.
- A bill filed for the 2021 session, Senate Bill 656, would preempt local regulation of campaign financing, including cities and counties where voters have adopted lower campaign contribution limits.
Policy Options to Consider 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.
- Establish a sunset review provision for preemptions that automatically repeals a preemption on a certain date unless the legislature affirmatively acts to renew it.
- Prohibit any fines or punitive liabilities for local governments that violate legislative preemptions.
To read the report Click HERE.