The audacity endemic in the Legislature came into sharp focus this session as lawmakers again infringed on home rule while decrying federal mandates. Conservative lawmakers argue both ways, railing against big government policies coming from Washington while imposing state dictates on small governments, Florida's counties and cities.
This legislative session mirrors past years in multiple efforts to stifle local control. The state's home rule statutes, enshrined in the Constitution in 1968, assign self-governing powers to local governments. But the law gives the state pre-emption powers to override county and municipality regulations.
There's no denying that Tallahassee is all about the clout of the special interests and big money influence. Local governments cannot compete with millions of dollars in campaign contributions from business interests.
Developers will benefit greatly from this session's bid to undo some of the growth management reforms adopted in 2011 when the Legislature granted local governments more control while also gutting tighter regulations.
One piece of legislation gaining traction as the Legislature winds down would restrict local control over the destruction of wetlands and prohibits new local fertilizer bans for three years while a committee conducts a study.
Wetlands are too valuable as habitat and aquifer resources. The expectation is the fertilizer study will be a sham that will issue a report siding with special interests and revoke all local bans, including Manatee County's rainy season restriction.
These come at a time when Florida is adopting tighter standards on nutrients that pollute our waterways after years of fighting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on clean-water protections.
In light of that, a legislative study on fertilizer is a waste of time.
Local government should control their environments, not Tallahassee politicians.
Lawmakers also intend to forbid local governments from assessing impact fees and transportation concurrency fees on certain kinds of new development unless revoked by a majority vote of the local governing authority. The revocation clause puts great pressure on local elected officials, and advocates for cities and counties rightly object to this unnecessary bill.
Manatee County and governments across the state have discounted those fees for years to stimulate economic development and the construction industry. Local entities don't need the Legislature to meddle in this issue.
Lawmakers are also on the attack about pre-empting local controls of such workplace issues as wage theft, sick time and living-wage minimums -- with some of the state's largest employers lobbying for the state to set aside current ordinances and ban future ones.
Lawmaker explanations for all these attacks on home rule are merely a smokescreen, boastful but tortured justifications. Both political parties engage in supporting both sides of local-control legislation.
One minute a lawmaker states his ban on local mandates for sick time eliminates a "patchwork" of regulations across the state. In next minute, a new elections law gives county elections supervisors flexibility in the hours and days for early voting -- creating a patchwork across the state.
The inconsistency is dumbfounding.