Democrats led by Sen. Linda Stewart and Rep. Anna V. Eskamani of Orlando are seeking to roll back another state preemption of local ordinances, this time over tree preservation.
The pair filed bills intending to restore the rights of local governments to have say over pruning, trimming, or removal of a tree on residential property.
The statute, approved through House Bill 1159 in 2019, was pushed as a way to protect property owners’ rights.
Some of the support for HB 1159 and its predecessors in 2018 arose after local controversies in places such as Seminole County where local authorities had sought to stop clear-cutting trees for development. The local control was supported as a way for local communities to create green buffers around development.
Eskamani contends that many local communities such as Audubon Park in Orlando and parts of Winter Park use green buffers and tree preservation to define the communities’ character and standard of life, so local governments should be able to protect how they are maintained. Audubon Park and most of Winter Park are in both Stewart’s Senate District 13 and Eskamani’s House District 47.
“It’s a big deal for them,” Eskamani said.
In a news release announcing the bill, Eskamani’s office argued “Floridians overwhelmingly agree that local elected officials should have the freedom to enact local measures that pertain to a community’s public safety, economy, and environment. Unfortunately the legislature continues to strip away local voices instead, pushing a big-government agenda while siding with profit-driven corporations over our constituents.
“Local governments are better connected to their respective communities and, as such, should be allowed to pass policies that reflect their community’s needs and values,” Eskamani stated in the release. “Let’s stand for home rule and let cities decide — quite literally — their own local landscape.”