Bill Banning Local Sunscreen, Plastic Straw Bans Among Preemption Measures Likely to Pass

plastic straws
Getty Images

As lawmakers scramble to adopt legislation in the final days of Florida’s 60-day session, it appears only a few of 50-plus preemption-related bills will be adopted before Friday’s adjournment.

The House Monday approved a bill that includes seven state preemptions of local government authority – including prohibiting bans on sunscreen and single-use plastic straws – in a mostly-partisan 71-40 vote.

House Bill 1299, sponsored by Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myer, would also restrict municipalities' ability to:

  • Annex or purchase properties in another municipality;
  • Levy taxes on nicotine products, establish a minimum age for the purchase of nicotine products, establish marketing requirements for nicotine products;
  • Regulate alternate generated power sources for motor fuel dispensing facilities;
  • Establish temperature requirements at assisted living facilities when such facilities;
  • And approve a school district impact fee if the fee results in an increase of 5 percent or more over a two-year period.

Despite the wide-ranging provisions in HB 1299 – which the Florida League of Cities calls a "Governmental Powers Preemption Train" – Monday’s House floor discussion focused on sunscreen and straw bans.

Key West’s ban on sunscreen to protect coral reefs was among "abuses" cited by legislators prior to the session in filing more than 50 preemption proposals.

Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Beverly Hills, said banning sunscreen to protect coral reefs is not supported by science. He said studies show sunscreen benefits outweigh concerns about damage to coral reefs.

"Sunscreens save lives. They protect people," he said. "Sometimes we need to step in, particularly when local government is putting our citizens at risk."

In discussing bans on plastic straw bans, Roach referred to committee testimony by disability advocate Olivia Babis, who said straw bans hurt those who need straws to drink.

"I don’t think pre-emption should be abused by the state," Babis said. "But when we have a vulnerable population whose health and safety is being put at risk, that is a point when the state does need to intervene on behalf of that community."

Less than 20 Florida cities have straw bans, according to the state’s analysis of the proposal. The state already preempts bans on plastic bags and Styrofoam containers.

Democrats objected to HB 1299’s alleged encroachment into local control.

"We’re trying to take too much power from local government," said Rep. Joe Geller, D- Dania Beach. "I think this bill interferes with ‘Home Rule’ too much."

Roach said it really isn’t about the specific issue.

"This is not a referendum on whether the state should regulate plastics," he said. "What this is a referendum on is whether we need a uniform regulatory framework in the state of Florida which will serve to attract and protect capital in the state of Florida. That’s what this bill is about."

Among other preemption bills that could be approved this week are SB 1400 and HB 1159, which impose restrictions on enforcement of local government tree ordinances. Both await adoption on chamber floors. Others include:

SB 1000, sponsored by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, would reduce the state’s communications-services tax from 4.92 to 3.92 percent, the direct-to-home satellite services tax from 9.07 to 8.07 percent, and restrict local governments’ ability to collect fees from communications providers.

SB 1000 passed the Senate 34-3 and has been transmitted to the House, where its companion bill, HB 693, sponsored by Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, awaits a third hearing.

SB 82, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, the so-called "Vegetable Garden Bill," was approved by the Senate 35-5 last week. SB 82 prohibits local governments from banning people from growing vegetable gardens anywhere on their property. It awaits House endorsement.

SB 336, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would require any "local-option" sales-tax referendum only appear on November general election ballots. It awaits a second reading in the Senate before it can be transferred to the House.

HB 5, sponsored by Rep. Nick DiCeglie, R-Indian Rocks Beach, also requires any "local option" sales tax referendum be presented during general elections but mandates approval by two-thirds of voters. It was approved by the House on April 11 in a 69-44 vote but never found traction in Senate committees.

  • HB 3, sponsored by Rep. Michael Grant, R-Port Charlotte, would prohibit local governments from imposing their own occupational and professional licensing requirements. It was approved by the House on April 11 in an 88-24 vote but has not moved in Senate committees.
  • HB 847, sponsored by Rep. Bob Rommel, R-Naples, and SB 432, sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, never made it through the committee process so it is unlikely either will be presented on camber floors. The bills would have prevented local governments from regulating employment issues.