For decades, Florida cities and counties have been able to pass and implement policies to protect and enhance the lives of their citizens, with minimal legislative mission-creep. Now, the Florida Legislature is considering four bills (SB 856, HB 839, SB 1128 and HB 919) that would rob local governments of their ability to offer more clean energy and transportation options to their citizens.
As currently proposed, these bills could let state lawmakers decide where energy and transportation infrastructure is sited — including power plants, transmission lines and electric vehicle charging stations. They could severely hinder communities from implementing clean energy goals or advancing building codes that save water and energy. And if these bills didn’t go far enough, they could also control permitting for certain emerging technologies like energy storage devices and electric heat pumps.
In other words, an official in the state capital could have more control than your mayor or city councilor on the location of gas pipelines, the elimination of toxic pollutants from the air and the actions local governments can take to help their communities become more resilient in the face of extreme weather events.
Local governments should decide what is best for their communities. That’s because they are best positioned to craft effective policies informed by boots-on-the-ground intelligence and the unique needs of their constituents. This includes protecting all of our residents from the negative impacts of certain infrastructure types, as they have been shown to create higher incidences of asthma, lung disease, and respiratory illnesses.
The one-size-fits-all approach proposed by state lawmakers in Tallahassee would limit the ability of our local elected officials to act in the best interest of the residents, workers, businesses in Largo — and as a result — would do more damage than good. These bills are profoundly wrong — especially in a home-rule state like Florida that prides itself on local control.
Local voices are poised to make the most informed choices that empower and protect the quality of life for our communities. This includes determining where energy and transportation infrastructure can best serve the needs of all community members. As such, we urge Florida’s legislators to reject these bills and trust us to continue serving our communities and the citizens who elected us.
Jamie Robinson is the vice mayor of Largo.