Home Rule Battle Heating Up Across Florida

In Tallahassee and across Florida, the debate of state control versus local control has heated up over the term “Home Rule”. Last week, dozens of local elected officials stood in the chambers of the Florida Senate to voice their concerns about state government wanting to thwart local control.

Home Rule means that local matters are handled at the local level. While the state does have broad powers explicitly identified in the Florida Constitution, the default is for local communities to have say over things like zoning and other matters.

The state Constitution also gives home rule precedence to local governments unless otherwise expressly identified as a state function.

Looking to the current and recent legislative sessions, local elected officials tell Florida Daily that they believe there is a massive power grab happening in Tallahassee which is in direct violation of the state’s charter. These include bills ranging from regulating short term rentals, such as through Airbnb, to local control of charter schools to zoning issues and community redevelopment agencies.

Local officials across Florida point to bills that expressly preempt the regulation and licensing of occupations and professions to the state. They are also pushing back against proposals which would preempt the regulation of business to the state unless expressly authorized by general law. Opponents of these measures say these proposals would totally take away local governments to control and to regulate businesses or business activity. Other previous proposals would have required a detailed fiscal impact analysis be performed by a local government prior to adopting or imposing the regulation.

“These bills are preposterous,” said Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Schellenberg, insisting that state lawmakers are turning the notion of Home Rule on its head.  Schellenberg points out that the opponents of Home Rule want a new law that says unless something is explicitly allowed, it is prohibited.  “It turns home rule on its ear,” Schellenberg said.

Schellenberg said that Republicans in Tallahassee campaign on allowing more cities to have local control but don‘t follow through once they are in office.

“When they govern, they just do the opposite,” said Schellenberg.

Contact Ed at Ed.Dean@FloridaDaily.com.

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