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José Oliva sends firm reminder to cities to back off tree ordinances

State law preempts cities from regulating tree trimming on private property.

House Speaker José Oliva is sending a not-so-subtle message to local governments not to over-step their authority.

Oliva sent letters to 488 local governments within the states reminding them that they are no longer allowed to enforce local tree ordinances restricting property owners from trimming or removing trees on their property.

He sent the same letter to more than 72,000 tree businesses who work with local governments.

“People should be free to protect their families and homes from trees and landscaping that poses a risk to them,” Oliva said. “The House takes seriously its duty to protect the rights of Florida residents and property owners and prevent government interference with those rights.”

The Florida Legislature approved — and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed last year — legislation preempting regulations on tree trimming and removal on private property. The bill applied retroactively, rendering already existing ordinances invalid.

Oliva decided to send the letters after learning of a Miami resident who was threatened with a $24,000 fine for trimming a tree on his property. The family planted the tree years earlier, but it had become a nuisance on the property, lifting the family’s driveway from its foundation.

But the family didn’t obtain the required permits.

Nevertheless, Oliva says the 2019 law protects families like that.

“As you serve your clients, you may have encountered local government standing in your way or threatening sanctions or even levying fines for simply doing what you know, in your training and experience, to be the correct thing to do. Those days are over,” Oliva wrote in his letter to contractors.

Local governments took issue with the law as another in a stream of attacks on local governing authority.

But supporters contend the law is necessary to protect property rights and prevent government overreach.

Oliva is advising any residents experiencing issues with local governments ignoring the law to contact his office.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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