March 23, 2021.
TALLAHASSEE, FL — Today, local elected officials across Florida sounded the alarm on the dangerous proposals being debated during this legislative session. Over 50 bills undermining local democracy have been introduced this year; many — like HB 53 / SB 1076 — are moving through the legislative process. The officials, who are all members of Local Progress, underscored the importance of protecting local democracy and home rule in order to ensure that communities across the state are prioritized over corporate interests.
“This legislative session we have seen an avalanche of proposals designed to undercut local democracy and erase home rule, aggressively pushed by the biggest corporate interests in the state,” said Hallandale Beach Commissioner Sabrina Javellana. “Determined to put profits over public health and safety, these policies disproportionately harm Black, Brown, and working-class Floridians.”
“When communities can’t address climate change, hire local workers, pass local budgets, approve local referendums or act in times of crisis, their lives are ultimately at stake,” said Gainesville Commissioner Gail Johnson. “Floridians know what they need and have a right to local power. The legislature must end its assault on home rule and let locals work.”
“Municipalities are experiencing impacts of climate change today and are trying to do their part to, at the very least, stop making this problem worse, and in the best case scenario proactively make improvements,” said Broward County Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor Alissa Schafer. “This legislation is State interference coordinated by industry interests, in direct conflict of what is best for both Floridian’s pocketbooks and the future of our state.”
The group also emphasized how the state’s continued attempts to undermine home rule has played out over the course of the pandemic — which rages on as Florida saw 31,541 new cases and 497 more deaths last week.
“The pandemic has made it clear that the response to COVID-19 is most effective when state and local governments coordinate and work together,” said Coral Springs Vice Mayor Joshua Simmons. “But Governor DeSantis has blocked local leaders from doing our jobs, and now the legislature wants to completely undermine our emergency management tools, and the work we were elected to do.”
“Local governments have worked around the clock on the frontlines to protect lives. Flexibility and the authority to address the unique, fast-moving effects of the coronavirus on their communities is critical to saving lives.” said Local Progress Deputy Organizing Director Francesca Menes. “The friction between state and local governments has cost lives, created confusion that has harmed public health, hampered the economic recovery, and disproportionately hurt people of color, low-wage workers, Indigenous communities and women.”
Following the press conference, the group also released a letter signed by dozens of local leaders in opposition to DeSantis’ anti-protest bill, SBS 484 / HB 1:
“As local elected officials, public safety is our top priority. Our budgets are not politically oriented. They are nonpartisan, written in conjunction with agency leaders and the public, and are based on the resources available and the needs of our communities.
The governor and his allies are turning a blind eye to the issues on which Floridians desperately need action, in favor of a racist and politically-motivated agenda that serves no one. We urge legislative leaders to reject this proposal.”