Note: The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee at 1 p.m. today considers the proposal (SB 588), filed by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, that would prevent cities and counties from regulating how restaurants and other establishments distribute plastic straws to customers.
Our state Sen. Travis Hutson has introduced a bill in the Florida Senate that would prohibit local governments from banning single use, plastic straws. A competing bill introduced by Sen. Kevin Rader would prevent grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses that sell food from using plastic carryout bags and providing single-use plastic straws.
Sen. Hutson’s plastic straw bill (SB 588) presents particularly clear and present harm to voters in St. John’s, Flagler and Volusia Counties. The fact that the bill prohibits local governments from banning plastic straws will allow a serious and completely unnecessary pollutant to continue to injure our sea life, litter our beaches and infiltrate our land and water.
Our counties are home to some of the last few clean natural areas in Florida. Multiple marine and estuarine biology research and rescue institutions reside here. We are home to a thriving fishing industry and depend on tourism. We have no red tide. Our beaches are usually clean. We have spent countless hours and dollars to protect our sea turtle nests.
To see how plastic debris in the ocean affects sea turtles, watch the removal of a plastic straw from the nose of a sea turtle: click on this link. The Internet offers similar videos with other plastic utensils.
Voters must have the ability to ban plastic straws on a local level if the state will not act to do so. The environment is a bi-partisan issue, as demonstrated by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ support for water clean up and Congress’ recent land conservation bill.
Individual liberty to use or provide plastic straws is the reason for the bill given by the sponsor of the companion House Bill 603, Rep. Anthony Sabatini. This confuses individual liberty with a right to harm the environment with garbage. We all know no such right exists.
Indeed, the ability to regulate plastic garbage if state government does not take care of the pollution is also a Home Rule issue. For several years, Florida legislation has been treading on the rights of counties and municipalities to self-govern in the absence of state or federal law. It continues to do so. One other example is the repeated introduction of legislation barring locales from prohibiting short-term rentals.
Impinging on local Home Rule is contrary to fundamental Republican principles of federalism. “The government closest to the people serves the people best,” said Thomas Jefferson.
For these reasons, the Democratic Women’s Club of Flagler Count urges you to withdraw your bill. We support a state ban that would prevent grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses that sell food from using plastic carryout bags and providing single-use plastic straws in SB 502 introduced by Sen. Kevin Rader. But if no state ban passes, voters should have the liberty to ban them on a local government level.
–Democratic Women’s Club of Flagler County
The Democratic Women’s Club of Flagler County is represented by President Barbara Murphy, Vice President Teldra Jones, Second Vice President Agnes Lightfoot, Secretary Debra Brogan, Treasurer Joan Buback, Legislative Liaison Myra Smith, and Correspondence Secretary Joanne Reuter.