On plastic straw bans at least, Florida cities: 1, Tallahassee Big Footers: 0

Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers a small blow to those who would take control from local governments. It's something, says Sue Carlton, though there's plenty more pre-emption to come.
Surprise! Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says it's okay for cities to decide for themselves whether to ban plastic straws. [CHRIS URSO  |   Times]
Surprise! Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says it's okay for cities to decide for themselves whether to ban plastic straws. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published May 22

At the risk of anyone agreeing too enthusiastically with this Southern saying: Well, shut my mouth.

Just as Tallahassee lawmakers were enjoying their tradition of trying to strip control from Florida cities, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a bill that would have forbidden local governments from banning plastic straws for the next five years.

The lipstick on this pig of a bill was so ridiculous it's a wonder anyone supporting it could keep a straight face. During those five years when no local government could stop restaurants from handing out plastic straws — no matter how enthusiastically the locals supported it — there would be a study of such ordinances. That study would be reported back to lawmakers. Who would, you know, get back to us real soon.

For the record, in 2008, they ordered up a similar analysis on retailers using plastic bags and other containers. Since then, the Legislature has adopted, well, no recommendations from that report.

So a victory lap for our own progressive St. Petersburg as well as Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale for taking steps to protect our waters and marine life from plastic.

Though what's at stake is bigger than straws. It's local municipalities being able to decide for themselves even if the Legislature decrees it knows best from the Georgia line to Key West.

DeSantis has said he's generally for local decisions. But if such decisions "infringe on people's constitutional freedoms or frustrate state policy," that could make them ripe for state intervention. We'll have to see how that plays out in other pre-emption attempts.

We're still figuring out what kind of governor DeSantis, a Trump ally who has already given the state Supreme Court a conservative lean, will be as a whole. Would Rick Scott have bucked even a straw ban?

The cynical would say the new governor takes a stand on an issue like this but lets other legislation with far greater impact proceed apace.

Such as: Amendment 4, which was intended to restore voting rights to felons who finished their sentences. Though nearly two-thirds of Florida voters wanted this, legislators found a way to cut out potentially tens of thousands of felons by requiring that all fees, fines and restitution be paid first. Even if the person is destitute, or making good-faith monthly payments.

And many of these restored-rights voters would be African-American, who tend to vote Democrat, if you haven't had enough cynicism already.

But probably no cliffhanger here: DeSantis has already indicated he'll sign that one into law. He’s also expected to sign a bill that will make it harder to get citizen initiatives onto the ballot when lawmakers won't do the job they were elected for.

Maybe we are starting to see what kind of governor DeSantis will be.

But a moment to celebrate this straw victory.

St. Petersburg was embracing phasing out straws at cafes and restaurants. Already, people were getting it. I've got two reusable straws now myself, if I could just quit poking the metal one through the bottom of every cup and springing a leak or consistently throwing the straw away when I'm done. Old habits die hard.

But at least on this one, progress and local control won the day.

Contact Sue Carlton at scarlton@tampabay.com.

Advertisement
Also In This Section
Advertisement
Advertisement