The LWVOC tackled another important Florida issue in its Wednesday Hot Topics, “Preemption: The Death of Home Rule?”
As part of the 1968 Florida constitutional revision, Home Rule was approved by voters and adopted a few years later by the legislature.
The Florida Constitution states in Article VIII, Section 2(b) for municipalities: “Municipalities shall have governmental, corporate and proprietary powers to enable them to conduct municipal government, perform municipal functions and render municipal services -- and may exercise power for municipal purposes except as otherwise provided by law.”
For the last several sessions, Republican legislators have been chipping away at Home Rule while gathering more power for Tallahassee, mostly at the behest of unelected entities such as the Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida and other big campaign contributors. A few of the areas being tinkered with are climate, disposal of medical waste, minimum wage, vacation rentals, police budgets, guns and fossil fuel consumption.
Government observers think that the motive goes to interfering with progressive cities and counties like Orlando/Orange County.
Orlando District 2 Commissioner Tony Ortiz, who is also president of the Florida League of Cities, said there is a “huge lack of knowledge” in Tallahassee, that too many legislators speculate about what is best for us without talking to constituents. The League of Cities, he added, is working to empower people with knowledge and to get them to pay attention to issues. “It’s important for people to make calls to their representatives.”
Ortiz said legislators need to be in touch more with local school boards, commissions and public-service agencies – and like all panelists, he praised the Central Florida delegation in Tallahassee.
There are 411 municipalities and 67 counties in Florida, and former Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie said Home Rule fits the diversity in Florida where counties like Orange and Dade are not going to have the same needs as smaller counties like Lake. “The legislature wants ‘one size fits all’ and that doesn’t work,” she said.
Ida Eskamani, a Central Florida advocate for racial and economical justice (and sister of state Rep. Anna Eskamani), said many legislators are arrogant about not learning. “They don’t want to work with us,” she said. “They want to turn local governments into boogeymen. It’s frustrating to be up against vindictive legislators and corporate interests.”
Eskamani said that, in her experience, people get angry when they understand what certain preemptions can take away.
LWVOC co-president Barbara Lanning said Hot Topics reached out to Republican legislators in order to get the other side of the story, but none consented to be on Wednesday’s panel, moderated by Aubrey Jewett of UCF.
Submitted by Dean Johnson