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Could language in tax package pre-empt local bans on puppy mill sales?

While you were sleeping—or watching LobbyTools for other stuff—language was put in the House’s annual tax package to, among other things, void all 58 existing puppy mill sale bans and prevent any future bans.

Now that’s pre-emption.

Over the past decade, 58 municipalities have passed these ordinances in the state, according to the Animal Defense Coalition.

That’s a non-profit animal welfare group that “assists local activists in passing ordinances to ban the retail sale of dogs and cats.”

Here’s the language in the 105-page bill: “Except as otherwise provided by law, a county, municipality, or other entity of local government may not prohibit the sale or offering for sale of tangible personal property subject to the tax imposed by (state law) which may be lawfully sold in this state. Any such ordinance or rule is void.”

Sorry Fido: You’re tangible personal property under law.

The wording is so broad it could impact many more local ordinances, such as regulations on adult bookstores and other adult entertainment, liquor sales, franchising agreements, retail zoning, and even limits on garage and sidewalk sales.  

Heaven forfend. How are we going to get rid of all that junk in the attic?

We should add the language, however, only applies to local governments that have chosen to outright ban pet stores—without any consideration to establishing minimum standards.

As with most products, local governments are free to regulate the sale of products in many ways, including deciding where certain businesses can be located and what standards they must meet.

The league says the language was purposely written to outlaw local puppy sale bans for the retail chain Petland, and was vagued out so lawmakers wouldn’t remotely look like they support puppy mills.

All of the big chains—Pet Smart, Petco, Pet Supermarket—have stopped selling puppies and focused their business model on adoptions, the league says. Petland is the only retail chain that still sells puppies.

Petland is lobbying the issue, but not as Petland. Rather, it’s registered as a principal under Florida Pet Retailers, and Florida Alliance for Consumers and Taxpayers, to name a couple.

To make things interesting, Florida Pet Retailers is represented by Ron Book, and his lieutenants, Rana Brown and Kelly Mallette.

The Florida Alliance for Consumers and Taxpayers is repped by, among others, Sean Pittman, and the power duo of Travis Blanton and Jon Johnson

Florida Retail Federation lobbyist Melissa Ramba has argued that local ordinances banning sales of select items create problems for business owners. 

“Address the bigger problem, not the sale of cats and dogs. A retailer should be able to sell any legal retail product in Florida,” Ramba told the committee.

“The ordinances that local governments pass only support online sales. They do not support your local business. You can still order a dog online and pick it up at the airport, even though you may have an ordinance that may ban the sale of cats and dogs.”

In any event, this a food fight in the making. The popcorn is in the microwave: We’ll watch and see which side prevails by Sine Die.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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