Bill to preempt local utility restrictions clears House committee

Under the bill, any previously passed actions from local municipalities would be void.

Another preemption bill was hemmed and hawed by a House panel until ultimately being passed Tuesday.

The House Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee voted to advance a bill (HB 919) preempting utilities restrictions. All Republicans voted in favor along with Democratic Reps. Christopher Benjamin and Rep. Dan Daley.

Sponsored by Polk City Rep. Josie Tomkow, the bill prohibits local governments from restricting the fuel types utility companies can use for energy production.

Under the bill, any previously passed actions from local municipalities would be void.

Tomkow said the bill is needed to protect natural gas, but it does not limit municipalities from supporting or implementing clean energy.

The Florida Natural Gas Association waived in support.

Chief among complaints from the bill’s detractors, and several members who ultimately voted for the bill, was that the language was too broad. Specifically, the use of the word “restrict”. The bill states municipalities cannot “take any action that restricts or prohibits or has the effect of restricting or prohibiting the types or fuel sources of energy production.”

Climate change factored into the discussion as well.

“If you were to tell me that at the state level, we are doing our part to make sure that we are paying attention to the impact on the climate change, this would be a very different discussion,” Rep. Dotie Joseph said. “If it does not exist at the state level, I am beyond uncomfortable taking that ability from local governments and to put it to the state where there’s no system in place to address that.”

David Cullen of the Sierra Club Florida said the bill could have negative effects on climate change.

“Don’t stop local governments that are ready to tackle climate change at home,” Cullen said.

But the bill’s sponsor said the bill is about making sure the state’s utility grid is secure, and she pointed out her penchant for supporting the environment.

“I think I’m the only one in this process who actually lives on a cattle ranch. So, when you’re talking about the environmentalist, I’m the original environmentalist,” Tomkow said.

The bill now heads to the Ways and Means Committee, its third of four committee stops.

Senate companion legislation (SB 1128) is in the Rules Committee.

Haley Brown

Haley Brown covers state government for FloridaPolitics.com. Previously, Haley covered the West Virginia Legislature and anchored weekend newscasts for WVVA in Bluefield, W.Va. Haley is a Florida native and a graduate of the University of Florida. You can reach her at [email protected]


One comment

  • tom palmer

    March 23, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    If all ranchers are environmentalists, how come some of them fight environmental regulations. That was just really a simple-minded response.

Comments are closed.


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