Published March 20, 2021
TALLAHASSEE --- Orders imposed by local officials after
hurricanes, pandemic outbreaks or other emergencies could be overturned by
the governor or Legislature, under a measure that moved forward Tuesday in
The proposal (SB
1924), approved along party lines by the
Republican-controlled Senate Community Affairs Committee,
comes after months of controversy about local COVID-19 mask
and curfew directives.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, would
limit to 10 days locally issued emergency orders, which
could be invalidated by the governor or the Legislature. The
proposal would allow the orders to be extended but would
require the support of city or county elected officials.
Currently, local states of emergency can be ordered for
seven days and extended indefinitely in seven-day increments
Diaz, said his proposal is due to the “different iterations”
of emergency orders issued during the pandemic “that have
gone above and beyond in restricting individual freedoms,
rights and an ability to live.”
State Senator Manny Diaz Jr.
A similar measure in the House (HB 945) would allow the
extensions to go a maximum of 42 days, approved in seven-day extensions.
Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, said with the governor and Legislature
undoing local orders, people might not heed the directives of local
officials in future emergencies.
“We elect local government to support our local needs, and they should have
the freedom to rule as they need and not be dictated to by a timeline that
may not work,” Polsky said.
Tonnette Graham, associate director of public policy with the Florida
Association of Counties, called the proposal an overreaction amid the
“Ordinarily, our emergency orders are not historically this long,” Graham
said. “We are in a historic time in this current pandemic.”
But Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said the bill “clarifies freedom” without
stepping on home rule.
“I think it's very wise to establish some precedent of how we will restrict
these protocols,” Baxley said. “They can't just go on and on with special
orders. Eventually, that's a dictatorship if nobody ever comes back to the
The measure about emergency powers was one of a series of proposals that the
committee supported Tuesday that could limit authority of local governments.
The other bills includeD proposals to prohibit the replacement of gas
stations with greener energy options (SB 856), limit the ability of local
governments to set “building design elements” on many single- and two-family
homes (SB 284) and block the replacement of natural gas as a home energy
source (SB 1128).
Sen. Travis Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican who is sponsoring the two
energy-related “preemptions,” said his proposals will allow local
governments to advance clean energy options without prohibiting energy
sources already in place.
Hutson said cities in California have started to ban gas stations.
“If they want to keep doing the solar, wind, energy-efficient electric
vehicle things that they have in place, and they want to continue to do
within their city, they are certainly allowed to,” Hutson said. “They just
can't cut off or be regressive to the consumers’ choice of what’s in place
An Axios Media report on March 1 said Petaluma, Calif., north of San
Francisco, has become the first to ban new gas stations in a move aimed at
accelerating the shift to electric vehicles.
Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, said the free market should dictate the future of
“I imagine, you know, as the need declines, a Wawa or RaceTrac … they spend
millions of dollars on their market studies on what they need or don't
need,” Cruz said.
Similar proposals in the House (HB 919 and HB 839) each have cleared a
single panel and await an appearance in the Local Administration & Veterans
Meanwhile, one of the other bills approved Tuesday would limit the ability
of local governments to set building-design elements, such as external
colors, styles of roofs and porches and styles of windows and doors, for
single- and two-family homes. Developers would still have to follow building
codes, and the proposal wouldn’t override rules put in place by homeowners’
associations or planned communities.
Bill sponsor Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican who owns a roofing
company, said the proposal might lower the costs of building homes and give
homeowners a chance to be more expressive with the exterior design.
“Anytime that you put another restriction or application on a home, the cost
tends to go up,” Perry said. “So, what we're trying to do is two things: One
is affordable housing; but one is also to let people be creative and have
their own design on their own lot in their own property.”