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Straw poll: Readers take a dim view of state government nixing local laws

Dan Sweeney

South Florida Sun Sentinel |

May 03, 2019 at 3:40 PM 

Plastic straws such as these were banned from businesses in at least half a dozen South Florida cities, but the Florida Legislature has halted such bans. It's the latest preemption move by the legislature, which has been using the power with greater frequency in recent years. (Jeff Chiu / AP file / OSMG)

With bans on plastic straws being the latest in a long line of local ordinances preempted by the Florida Legislature, we asked readers what they thought of not just the legislature’s ban on plastic straw bans, but also the overarching issue of the state taking away local governments’ ability to pass regulations.

For many, the plastic straw ban was a bridge too far — sure, some other preemptions may have been unnecessary, but for them, this showed that local regulation had gotten out of control.

“This law was hideous from the start with absolute no proof to show why straws should be banned,” wrote Steve Goldsmith. “Don’t show me what's happening in other countries, show facts here in the United States and that did not happen.”

Others felt that the plastic straw bans enacted in several South Florida citieswere inconsequential compared to the real need to supply a statewide regulatory framework for more-serious issues.

“In theory, cities and counties should be able to enact their own laws. From a logistical standpoint, it's just not practical. The topic for any of these laws, is not even relevant, the idea that a citizen or business should have to be aware of a local law that varies per city is just insane,” wrote Karen Kirwan. “I buy a soda and straw in Plantation, drive to Fort Lauderdale, and I'm now breaking the law. That may be humorous, but a serious issue like guns, and I could be in hot water simply for traveling to the wrong city.”

But others, especially those whose livelihood depends on oceans that suffer disproportionately from plastic litter, saw straws as a serious issue.

“With plastic straws not being recyclable or reusable, they end up doing more harm than good. It's understandable that a person would prefer drinking from a straw, and some people with serious illnesses require straws, but there are better alternatives than a plastic straw. A paper straw is one alternative, metal straws are also available, and I've even seen more bizarre alternatives such as a pasta straw,” wrote Patrick Duong, who works as a scuba instructor and boat captain in Key Largo.

“I am basing my observations from Key Largo, where the population is smaller than most of the cities in South Florida. The amount of plastic bags and straws being used is exponentially higher in those cities where there are more supermarkets, restaurants, bars, casinos, and large events.”

For many readers, the fact that the Republican-controlled legislature was dictating what laws could and could not be passed in largely Democratic cities in South Florida smacked of both partisanship and hypocrisy.

“Have you noticed how Republicans praise local control … until it applies to their need to control?” wrote Linda Mueller. “I know it is a different state and a different issue, but look at how well Flint, Mich., did when the state took control of their water.”

“No, I’m not okay with Tallahassee overruling local government on issues such as these,” wrote Turner Cathey. “In fact, I’m strongly against Tallahassee tromping on home rule in general.”

The issue, of course, is about much more than plastic straws.

It is about shopping carts, smoking, Uber, housing, vacation rentals. They are taking away our ability to regulate issues that matter in our own backyards,” wrote Hallandale Beach City Commissioner Michele Lazarow on Facebook. “I voted for the straw ban even though I knew they would preempt is this year.”

Florida is one example of largely Democratic cities seeing local ordinances overturned by a state government controlled by Republicans, but as Democratic and Republican constituencies become increasingly separated by an urban-rural divide, the issue has become commonplace in other states as well.

Miami Beach raised its minimum wage in 2016, despite state law that already preempted wage increases to the state. An appeals court threw out Miami Beach’s law, and the state supreme court declined to hear the case earlier this year. But in other states, including Alabama and Missouri, local minimum wage ordinances have been passed without a state preemption law on the subject, only to see the state legislature act to preempt wage increases.

In almost every case, state preemption is promoted as a way to curb a bewildering patchwork of local laws, protecting both businesses that would have to navigate, for example, dozens of different regulations on ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, and citizens who, as reader Karen Kirwan noted, could find themselves running afoul of local gun control laws.

From Facebook comments, it appears most readers took exception to Tallahassee dictating how local government should operate. Ignoring responses that were off topic or repeats, 31 commenters were in favor of plastic straw bans and/or against state preemption of local laws.

Nine commenters were against local bans and welcomed preemption. Many of these comments appeared to fall along partisan lines, depending on whether one favored the Democrats in charge of local government or the Republicans in charge in Tallahassee.

Only one commenter attempted a consensus view.

“To be honest, I feel like [state control of] Airbnb is okay,” he wrote. “[But] ban straws we need to save the turtles.”



Dan Sweeney is the author of "Sound Off South Florida," where he covers our readers' view on local news and solicits your comments and opinions on various topics. Previously, Dan covered the state legislature and statewide political issues. He graduated from the University of Missouri in 2000 and has lived in South Florida ever since.


Michele Lazarow

400 South Federal Highway
Hallandale Beach 33009

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