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Florida ban on local straw laws vetoed by governor

Newly elected Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in his first veto, struck down a bill May 10 that would have prevented local governments from banning plastic straws for five years.

In siding with cities that want to restrict plastic straws, DeSantis, a Republican, noted that Florida communities including Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach and Miami Beach had already taken action to prohibit plastic straws.

"These measures have not, as far as I can tell, frustrated any state policy or harmed the state's interests," DeSantis wrote in a letter accompanying his veto. "In fact, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has encouraged Florida residents, schools and businesses to reduce plastic straw use.

"Under these circumstances, the state should simply allow local communities to address this issue through the political process," he wrote. "Citizens who oppose plastic straw ordinances can seek recourse by electing people who share their views."

The governor's veto letter said the legislation originally addressed issues with contamination of recyclable materials, but the provision dealing with plastic straws was added later. It prevented local governments from banning plastic straws until 2024.

City officials in Sanibel applauded the veto and noted its local ordinance included a provision allowing for straws for the disabled, a concern mentioned by opponents of straw bans. In a May 7 letter, Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane had urged DeSantis to veto reject the bill and noted it would overturn Sanibel's plastic straw ban, which had passed in September.

Florida state Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, tweeted that the governor's veto was "a victory for home rule and for cities like @StPeteFL that have taken action to protect our environment."

The bill banning local bans had passed Florida's Republican controlled state legislature by comfortable margins in late April. The state's House adopted it 87-23 on April 25, and the state Senate passed it 24-15 five days later.

DeSantis's veto is the latest action in a topic that's been hotly debated in state legislatures around the country this year. Three states — North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee — passed laws preventing cities from regulating plastic and other packaging, arguing that local bans raise costs and that one states law is better than a patchwork of local ordinances.

But measures to do so in South Carolina and Alabama met strong resistance from city councils, and have stalled in those states for now.

The Florida Legislature's analysis attached to the bill said 10 Florida towns and cities, including St. Petersburg and Fort Lauderdale, had taken action against plastic straws and noted businesses such as Sea World and Alaska Airlines had taken similar actions.

But it also said that paper straws, while biodegradable, also have environmental impacts and cost 2.5 cents compared with 0.5 cents for plastic straws.

It also noted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency statistics that said two-thirds of the marine debris found in beach cleanups and surveys were single-use disposable plastic packaging from food and beverage service.

Florida already has separate state laws banning local governments from regulating plastic bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and preventing local governments from banning expanded polystyrene foam packaging, according to Florida news reports.

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» Publication Date: 13/05/2019

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research, technological development and demonstration (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° [606572].

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