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State preemption bills have a good year at the Florida Legislature

Florida Capital
christopher boswell/Christopher Boswell
Florida Capital

The 2024 Florida Legislature passed a number of bills that would take away authority from local governments. Known as preemption bills, they were cleared for issues ranging from local wages to vacation rentals to affordable housing. Some of those that failed this year will likely be back next year.

“Over the past six or seven years, it’s not been a good year for home rule.”

That’s Jeff Sharkey, president of Capital Alliance Group. He represents Leon County government, so it’s his job to push back on preemption bills. Florida lawmakers filed about 1900 bills this year and roughly 325 bills passed.

“One out of 20 of those 1900 bills were preemption bills," said Sharkey. "So, you can imagine it’s a constant battle with local government advocates, city officials, county officials, Florida Association of Counties, Florida League of Cities…trying to manage that onslaught of preemption bills.”

One of the most controversial is House Bill 433, which would prevent local governments from putting requirements on contractors about wages and heat-exposure protections for workers. Republican House sponsor Tiffany Esposito of Fort Myers and other supporters said the proposal would save taxpayer money and that businesses should be able to determine the wages of workers. Sharkey disputes that.

“But there wasn’t, to my knowledge, one piece of evidence or ordinance that showed it that had a dramatically adverse effect on businesses," he said. "I mean, you talk about roofers, you talk about construction companies, you talk about landscaping. This is hot in the summer, and it’s not getting any cooler.”

A related measure by Republican representative Jason Shoaf of Port St. Joe. would override existing city and county ordinances that impose hiring preferences on local public works projects. In debate on the Senate floor, Democratic Senator Jason Pizzo said Broward County, part of which he represents, has a program to subsidize some workers’ wages so they can qualify for benefits.

“[Does] anything in this bill, if passed and signed into law, that would prohibit a place like Broward from offering that hourly subsidy?”

Republican Senator Jay Trumbull of Panama City in response:

“Senator Pizzo, not fully understanding the nuances within Broward, but there’s nothing in this bill that would prohibit Broward from giving a gift of some dollar amount to a particular industry or vendor…is my understanding.”

Another successful preemption bill deals with vacation rentals. Sharkey says there are hundreds of thousands of these in Florida now, and lawmakers have tried for years to address them. Some see them as extra income for property owners, others as party houses with no accountability. Senate Bill 280 by Republican Senator Nick DiCeglie of Pinellas County would preempt the regulation of vacation rentals to the state. Here’s DiCeglie:

“There’s been somewhat of -- I’d say a weaponization of government to prevent these properties from operating as vacation rentals," he said, "and I think that this bill is going to address those concerns.”

Also passing: a ban on public sleeping, new requirements for food delivery platforms and electric vehicle charging stations, and the uniform handling of complaints against law enforcement.

Other preemption bills failed, including a measure that would have capped transfers from a city or county’s municipal utility to its general fund…and a move to ban the removal of historic monuments that have been in place at least 25 years.

Republican Senator Blaise Ingoglia of Spring Hill fought for term limits for county commissioners, but ultimately the House and Senate couldn’t agree.

“I will continue working on this bill," he said before the bill died. "We still have a way to go. We still have the House to reconcile with.”

Sharkey expects some of those proposals and others to come back in the next legislative session.

Follow @MargieMenzel

Margie Menzel covers local and state government for WFSU News. She has also worked at the News Service of Florida and Gannett News Service. She earned her B.A. in history at Vanderbilt University and her M.S. in journalism at Florida A&M University.