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State lawmakers hate federal meddling even as they preempt local government

Publication Date: 5/8/2015
  • Author:Fred Grimm
  • Publication:Miami Herald

Preemption, in my neighborhood, looks like a drunken frolic. As if a frat house has preempted the pretty yellow cottage down the street.

Technically, "preemption" refers to clauses commonly added to state statutes that override city and county ordinances. The Florida Legislature dearly loves the concept. That's how the good ol’ boys in Tallahassee keep cities and counties from, say, banning backyard gun ranges in residential areas. Or keep local governments from prohibiting guns in parks or playgrounds. Because our state lawmakers sure as hell know better about local issues than some mayor or city commissioner...

It would seem an odd predilection for a conservative, Republican-dominated Legislature whose members rail about big government mandates and federal interference in state prerogatives. We know better about local issues, they tell the feds, even as they foist the Legislature’s rural ethic on urban Florida.

"Every municipal official is vexed by the hypocritical actions of the state Legislature in their penchant for passing preemptive legislation," South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard told me via email. "Fighting that BS is the primary occupation of the lobbyists we hire to represent us in Tallahassee."

Mayor Cindy Lerner of Pinecrest, also by email, told me, "The Florida League of Cities has for years had to lobby against the many ways and issues that the Florida Legislature imposes on local government." She said preemption was a convenient tool for the Legislature "basically any time a special interest wants to stamp out those pesky local government laws trying to regulate the health, safety, welfare of our residents."...