A seemingly innocuous, vague, yet potentially transformative Florida State House Bill is making its way through the Senate and should be watched very carefully.
CS/HB 17: Local Regulation Preemption is before the Florida Senate currently and is pending review. If it progresses unimpeded, it would go into effect on July 1.
Why should Monroe county residents be aware of this, much less concerned?
Simply put, HB 17 would prohibit certain local governments from imposing or adopting certain regulations on businesses, professions and occupations and instead turns that power over to the state.
This bill would render local governments powerless in many regards. And while we could debate whether local government leaders in Monroe County always have the best interests of the citizenry in mind when implementing laws, local leaders have the right and obligation to decide what happens in their communities. That’s what they were elected to do.
HB 17 is sponsored by Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, and seeks to bar city and county governments from regulating businesses unless state law specifically allows them to do so. The House Careers and Competition Subcommittee recently approved the bill 9-6 on a nearly straight party-line vote, with Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, joining Democrats in opposing the bill.
The alternative is atrocious. Anytime power is taken away from the cities and given blindly to the state, it creates reams of bureaucracy and red tape.
Further, the bill would repeal any local business regulations not authorized by state law in 2020. So in the course of three short years, the state would have firmly established its monarchy, with the cities needing to fall in line. Legislators’ efforts to erode local government control would be nearly complete.
Supporters say the bill would make it simpler for companies to do business in Florida, but we see this as a play toward building a monolithic state government. Last we heard, there haven’t been demands from Florida citizens to establish a bigger state government. So what exactly is the end game here?
Locally, there are specific downsides connected to this. For example, consider vacation rental laws. Currently, local government establishes their own vacation rental guidelines in the interest of their respective communities, with equity, safety, protecting the tax base and preventing widespread abuse as the goals. Without that power you might see that industry become far less regulated, leading to nightly vacation rentals, or worse. If you are a full-time resident, and there’s a vacation rental home in your neighborhood, that’s not what you want to see.
You might also see vacation rentals not conforming to fire and safety codes, refuse guidelines and noise ordinances. Before you know it, our quiet, pristine community looks nothing like what we intended. That community decay could likely then have a ripple effect on home values. Not a desirable cause-and-effect outcome.
Requiring cities to continually seek authority from the Legislature to resolve local issues is an ineffective system of governance. Sure, there are occasions when the state should establish uniform regulations for an industry, like, for example, with transportation networks like Uber and Lyft. But a one-size-fits-all approach to addressing most local business regulations is impractical.
On top of all the commonsense reasons to derail this bill, you would think for a directive as complex as this, the bill would be hundreds of pages long. It’s not. In fact, it’s two pages long. In addition to its brevity, it’s extremely vague and open-ended.
This bill has very few, if any, advantages to the citizens or businesses in Florida. It serves only politicians. Ultimately, local leaders should be charged with managing local issues because they have a very real stake in their communities. Their jobs depend on it.