Gov. Ron DeSantis properly stood for local control by vetoing legislation that would have banned the local bans on plastic straws. Home rule has been attacked by the meddling Florida Legislature for years, and the Republican governor’s first veto suggests his embrace of limited government may not be as situational as it has been with some of his predecessors. He will have plenty of other opportunities to remain consistent.
It would have been easy for DeSantis to let the ban on straw bans for five years become law. The cities that have banned plastic straws or are phasing them out include St. Petersburg, Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach. Those aren’t exactly conservative hot beds, and lawmakers provided modest cover for their micromanaging by ordering a state study. But DeSantis stuck to his limited government philosophy last week in his straight-forward veto message: “The state should simply allow local communities to address this issue through the political process. Citizens who oppose plastic straw ordinances can seek recourse by electing people who share their views.”
Great. Here are a few other areas where DeSantis should remember that sentiment and remind the Legislature that Tallahassee does not always know best:
• For almost 15 years, voters in Pinellas have consistently approved an additional property tax to add music, art, textbooks, technology and reading programs to the classrooms and to enhance teacher pay. The school district should not be forced to redirect any of that money to charter schools as envisioned by HB 7123. But that issue was embedded into the broader tax cut package that DeSantis signed into law Wednesday.
• Voters approved Amendment 4, which is aimed at allowing most felons to automatically regain their voting rights after their sentences have been completed. Yet lawmakers approved unnecessary legislation that will result in hundreds of thousands of those felons remaining disenfranchised because they have not paid all restitution, fines and court fees. DeSantis has signaled he will sign the bill into law. So the political process is good for addressing straw bans but not voting rights for felons?
• Should the state really care how your garden grows? The Legislature passed SB 82, which prohibits local governments from regulating them. Who doesn’t like a good tomato? But is that really the state’s role? DeSantis should veto this legislation.
• There is an affordable housing crisis in Tampa Bay and elsewhere. Yet the Legislature passed HB 7103 that would force local governments to offset the cost to developers of including affordable housing units in their developments. That is an issue for local governments, and DeSantis should veto the legislation.
The governor recently offered a reasonable description of his conservative approach to governing: “If they’re doing things that infringe on people’s constitutional freedoms or frustrate state policy, then that becomes something that can be ripe for state intervention. Unless I see it violating some other principle, I usually just let people do that as they see fit.”
That might be why a conservative Republican governor was praised for his veto of the ban on straw bans by progressive Democratic mayors such as St. Petersburg’s Rick Kriseman, who called it ‘‘a victory not just for local control and home rule, but common sense as well as the environment.’’
Home rule and state policy could use more of this kind of bipartisan common sense.