Fla attempts to rein in gov’t overreach with bills overturning sanctuary policies and halting plastic straw bans

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. FILE PHOTO: Screenshot.

A bill to place a moratorium on plastic straw bans in Florida has reached the desk of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. It is the second bill to reach the governor for his signature within a few days in which the state is working to rein in local governments that are over-reaching their authority.

In this latest bill, the state’s legislature is seeking to manage a divisive issue over whether local governments can force businesses to comply with edicts to stop the use of plastic straws within their jurisdictions.

HB 771 was passed by a 24-15 vote in the Florida Senate this week, largely along party lines, prohibiting local governments’ efforts to “enforce any ordinance banning plastic straws until July 2024,” according to a Sun-Sentinel report.

It is unknown if DeSantis will sign the bill into law, as he has said that he wants to become known as an environmental governor who succeeds in cleaning up the state’s waterways.

According to a Fox News report, at least 10 cities in Florida have been in the process of or already implemented bans on plastic straws, to include Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Delray Beach, Coral Gables, and Hallandale Beach.

Assuming DeSantis signs the bill, it calls for a study to be conducted on the cities that have already enacted bans, to look at “data and conclusions,” and the information local officials used to make their decisions on the issue.

Plastic-straw bans have become a rallying point for environmental groups over the last few years. A 2018 National Geographic report states 91 percent of plastic used ends up in oceans and landfills. However, straws account for less than 1 percent of the problem.

Bans have been forefront on the Florida legislature’s agenda. Also on the governor’s desk is a bill that last week passed the Senate prohibiting sanctuary policies. DeSantis is fully expected to sign the sanctuary city prohibition.

Sanctuary policies purport to allow jurisdictions to refuse aid in federal immigrant detention and deportation actions.

SB168 will make it against the law for Florida law enforcement agencies and departments to refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials. Local governments, when requested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, will have to detain people suspected of being undocumented immigrants in local jails until ICE officers come to take custody of them.

“This is about public safety,” said Senator Joe Gruters told the New York Times. Gruters is the bill’s sponsor in the Senate and the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. “If you’re a hardworking illegal immigrant that is not breaking the law, you have nothing to worry about. If you want to be a criminal and be here illegally, my advice is to go to California or one of those other sanctuaries.”

The Times states that the Florida bill is based on a Texas law passed two years ago requiring that local authorities cooperate with ICE. Some of that state’s cities challenged the law in court but lost.

“It’s designed to be bulletproof against the inevitable lawsuits that will be filed by advocacy groups in Florida,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies. “Those are going to have a tough time, considering that the Texas law has already passed muster.”


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