Legislature takes on local governments

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By Javan Frinks

The Florida legislature’s trend of pushing bills superseding local regulation continues this year with proposed laws touching everything from renewable energy to impact fees, apprenticeship programs, campaign finance and ports.

Tampa’s sustainability efforts led by City Council member Joe Citro is the target of a bill that seeks to prevent local governments from regulating construction of infrastructure.

The sponsor of the bill, Miramar Republican Tom Fabricio, told the Tampa Bay Times he filed it after Councilman Citro introduced a plan to restrict new fossil fuel infrastructure in the city.

While Citro withdrew the proposal, the bill it prompted is moving quickly in the Republican-led legislature with full support from the energy industry.

Citro told WMNF he’s surprised by the response from state lawmakers.

“Well this should not have been a red and blue political issue. I was working with many environmental and political groups and this was to make sure that our children and grandchildren have clean air which would in turn lead to clean water. This was not meant to cut out all fossil fuel but new infrastructure. By the state tying my hands, and tying city council’s hands, and tying the mayor’s hands …  the City of Tampa, other cities and councils, can’t take action.”

Tampa City Council also put forward a plan for an apprenticeship program that the Florida Legislature thwarted.

“Through attrition and retirement we’re losing a lot of construction workers and this was a great way of introducing an apprenticeship program to fill in the void that will be coming in future years,” Citro said “By the legislators up in Tallahassee telling us what we can and cannot do, and circumventing our home rule, many … young adults who are looking for another route other than college are going to lose out on that opportunity to enter into a great profession making great money. Tallahassee has preempted us again with House Bill 175 stopping apprenticeship programs in the City of Tampa.”

Other bills introduced this year would preempt local regulation of impact fees, solar power facilities, red light cameras and seaports.

Citro said this type of overreach from Tallahassee is an affront to more than just local lawmakers.

“When we come up with resolutions, changing our logic and the way we run our government and the state preempts us, you’re not only tying the hands of the city council, you’re tying the hands of the citizens asking us to do their work,” he said.

He urged voters to who want to keep government close to home to make their feelings known at the ballot box.

“Please be careful on who you elect to go to Tallahassee in two years. Remember, Tampa City Council, the mayors, the Board of County Commissioners, and other local organizations – governments are here to do your work. Don’t let someone in Tallahassee who may have never been to Tampa dictate how we’re supposed to live.”

Learn more about all the preemption bills here.

Listen to the full interview with Council member Joe Citro below.