Florida's straw-banning cities sucked victory from the jaws of defeat on Friday, when Gov. Rick DeSantis vetoed a bill that would have banned their straw bans.
Two weeks ago, the Florida Legislature overwhelmingly passed HB 771, a recycling bill that included a five-year moratorium on localities passing new plastic straw regulations or enforcing the ones they already have on the books.
The target of the moratorium was the 10 towns that had passed either all-out straw bans or straw-on-request laws, which make it illegal to give out unsolicited straws. The law's passage was a rare victory for straw ban opponents, who had tasted little but defeat since anti-straw mania began sweeping the nation in early 2018.
The Republican's veto message makes it clear that his veto was meant to preserve the straw bans already on the books.
"A number of municipalities, including Sanibel, Ft. Myers Beach, and Miami Beach, have enacted ordinances prohibiting single-use plastic straws," it says. "These measures have not, as far as I can tell, frustrated any state policy or harmed the state's interests….[T]he State should simply allow local communities to address this issue through the political process."
Despite a less-than-liberal record on green issues when he was a member of the U.S. House, DeSantis has surprised many by supporting several progressive environmental policies. He has boosted funding for Everglades restoration, opposed offshore drilling, and established two new state-level environmental offices. So his veto should not be a shock.
Nevertheless, the governor's veto statement displays from some puzzling logic. DeSantis tells Floridians "who oppose plastic straw ordinances can seek recourse by electing people who share their views."
That is exactly what they did by electing a Republican state legislature that then went on to pass the bill that the governor is now vetoing. In a political system where power is divided between state and local governments, people who lose the policy fight at city hall can take their issue to the state house.
Indeed, Florida already has passed a law forbidding localities from banning plastic bags.
Lawmakers in Colorado and Utah have introduced similar straw-ban preemption laws. Neither made much progress in those legislatures. With DeSantis' veto, the tactic appears to be a bust in Florida as well.