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Joshua Simmons: The death of local governments

Preemption is being used as a partisan tool and motivated by special interest.

It has been said that if a Florida Legislative Session takes place during a presidential election cycle, then the business of the Legislature will often be quiet and will not raise major headlines.

However, I must implore all Floridians and all local elected officials to be vigilant and pay attention to this Session, which officially starts Tuesday.

Bills have already been filed, committee appointments have been made, and one thing is clear — local governments’ authority will continue to be under attack.

Home Rule, defined as the ability to establish its form of government through its charter, and to then enact ordinances, codes, plans and resolutions without prior state approval.

Simply stated, local governments were given the authority to work in the best interest of their constituents and municipalities. After all, local elected officials are closest to the people and are very much in tune with the people who voted them into office.

Local electeds often talk to voters at the grocery store, at Little League games, after Commission and board meetings, at restaurants, and basically anywhere the local elected goes within the boundaries of their district or municipality.

However, these conversations often end with the statement: “I am sorry, I can’t help you because the state has prevented us from taking action on this matter.”

Recently, a nonprofit watchdog organization, Integrity Florida, released a very detailed report on the state Legislature’s continued use of preemption to block local electeds from taking action on issues that matter to their constituents.

Legislators, in particular, from the controlling party in Tallahassee have used many different methods of preemption without regard for local governments and without listening to local electeds who plead, session after session, to work with local governments instead of continuing this Thanos-like assault on local governments ability to carry out the wishes of the people they represent.

Integrity Florida’s report revealed that the state has turned from the noble qualities of preemption and moved toward punitive preemptions which not only block local electeds from taking action, but will also cause local electeds to face unfair legal repercussions, such as fines, suspensions and removal from office because the local elected official decided to act on behalf of the people who voted them into office.

Preemption was always meant to be used as way to have uniformity throughout the state on big issues, but when the Legislators are using their time and taxpayer dollars to preempt local governments from banning plastic straws, you have to ask yourself, are they working in the best interest of Florida (or for some restaurant lobbying firm who has padded that legislator’s PAC)?

To make matters worse, Integrity Florida found that: “Some Republicans have expressly acknowledged that the use of preemption is a strategy to block progressive local actions and to punish ‘rogue’ local governments.”

The report goes on to state that instead of enforcing the business of Florida, preemption is being used as a partisan tool and motivated by special interest.

All this takes place in The Capitol, not in your city, not in the place you call home.

I could go on and on for days about the disastrous effect these negative preemptions have on local governments.

For instance, affordable housing is a crisis in South Florida and what affordable housing may look different from one city to the next. However, the State saw fit to preempt inclusionary zoning, effectively blocking local governments from working with developers to provide affordable housing.

Enough is enough.

Residents and local elected officials must stand together and work to protect their homes. This is not a partisan battle, preemptions, especially punitive preemption, sees no color and all local governments are affected.

We have to know what’s going on and we have to change the mindsets of the people we send to Tallahassee.

Local governments are labs of democracy, this is where we are supposed to be innovative and forward-thinking, the state Legislature should not prevent local governments from carrying out this mandate.


Joshua Simmons is a Coral Springs Commissioner.

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  1. Larry Gillis

    January 13, 2020 at 3:58 pm

    THE DEATH OF A THOUSAND CUTS. The problem here, of course, is that gun rights and other major personal liberties get nibbled to death by municipalities across the face of Florida. These rights are major principles of Liberty and ought not to be subjected to the whims of minor jurisdictions, which typically do not have the vaguest idea of what these principles are about.

    As a practical matter, when major matters are subjected to local control, only the Big Guys get heard (e.g., the contracting industry, the medical industry, etc).

    This is a particular problem for the “lesser” political parties (e.g., the Libertarian Party of Florida), because we don’t have the money to contest these relentless micro-aggressions.

    Home rule has its place, for sure (like regulating the height of lawn grass), but they shouldn’t be allowed to regulate something they know nothing about.

    Vote Libertarian.

    Larry Gillis (Vice Chair, Lee County Libertarians)

  2. Edward freeman

    January 13, 2020 at 10:50 pm

    Thank you Comm. Joshua Simmons for bringing forward this important issue. The corrupt Republicans that dominate the Florida Legislature, partially because of their illegal gerrymandering, will stop at nothing to silence Floridians. They do not give a shit what Floridians want or what is best for Florida. Please keep this important issue front and center. Thank you again.

  3. Louise Kowitch

    January 14, 2020 at 7:07 pm

    Thank you very much for this essential information which I will share with my neighbors of all political persuasions. This is an affront to our democratic republic and everything our nation has fought for from the War for Independence to the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. We are well on our way to oligarchy and I applaud your efforts to wake us up.

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