‘Local voices, local choices’: League of Cities outlines 2020 priorities
Home rules: Hundreds of local officials will descend on Tallahassee for the Florida League of Cities Legislative Action Days, each looking to protect the right to self-govern.

league of cities home rule
Defenders of Home Rule gear up for Session.

Amid an atmosphere where home rule seems to face perpetual preemption, the Florida League of Cities continues its work.

An eve-of-session press briefing on the group’s 2020 Action Agenda struck many of the familiar notes.

Among the 2020 priorities: a renewed defense of home rule, allowing cities to regulate short-term rentals in terms of zoning and occupancy, and renewed attention to the state’s water issues.

Additionally, the group wants to stop the Legislature from sweeping the Sadowski Trust affordable housing fund, and backs moves to strengthen cybersecurity and to allow cities to regulate medical cannabis companies.

The League sees local control (“local voices, local choices”) as the ultimate priority. Lobbyists hit many of the major themes in an hour-long colloquium.

Regarding cybersecurity, the League’s position is that cities are under constant attack, from phishing schemes to attacks on hardware and software. Smaller rural areas, with dated systems, are in the greatest danger.

The League urges passage of HB 4537, which would appropriate $5 million to Cyber Florida, which they see as a start.

Short-term rentals, meanwhile, are a source of frustration. The League’s Casey Cook noted opposition to new legislation (SB 1128/HB 1011) that would roll back local ordinances and bans predating 2011, creating state legality and a regulatory structure in its place.

State regulation, Cook added, has been “inadequate” in this sphere.

The group also wants a “strategic and targeted” approach to water quality, citing real needs. Expectations are that $18 billion will be needed in the next decade to remedy wastewater woes, and that the state will need 20% more potable water in 2023 than it does today.

There is optimism that the Legislature may be “looking favorably” on this front, a rhetorical priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The group is in support of SB 690/HB 147, legislation that would compel a comprehensive report from the Department of Environmental Protection about Florida’s water issues.

Regarding medical cannabis, the group wishes the Legislature would allow local control of zoning and location caps, even as the mood is “quiet” among its constituent members. Problems that were widely anticipated ahead of the rollout of marijuana dispensaries haven’t come to pass.

Though preemption tends to be a steamroller when it comes to Home Rule concerns, the League sees cause for optimism in the Governor’s Office.

The Office of Resiliency, which looks likely to be codified via legislation this Session, is seen as a “very positive step,” and League cities look for a robust partnership with the state.

And compared to former Gov. Rick Scott, current Gov. Ron DeSantis provides reasons for hope.

After all, one panelist said, he vetoed a bill last Session that would have barred local governments from banning plastic straws.

While it is uncertain whether DeSantis will sign on with a majority of League goals, in the age of preemption and model legislation, they will take their wins where they can find them.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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