“Municipalities shall have governmental, corporate and proprietary powers to enable them to conduct municipal government, perform municipal functions and render municipal services, and may exercise power for municipal purposes except as otherwise provided by law.”
When it comes to municipal governing and local policies, Mayors and City Council Members/Commissioners make decisions based on information closest to its residents and individual needs of the city. Local decision-making was affirmed as critical to Florida cities when the State Legislature passed the 1973 “Home Rule Powers Act.” However, what doesn’t work is when the state attempts to take away this “home rule power,” transferring decisions to the state. In essence, the state dictates how a city must manage local decisions, often mandating rules that work for some cities, but not others.
Every year, with the assistance and guidance from the Florida League of Cities, municipalities monitor, strategize and take action on Legislative Bills that attempt to preempt municipal Home Rule. The 2017 legislative session has not moved away from attempting to curtail this right. One 2017 legislative effort wants to prevent cities from having any say on how wireless utility companies will use municipal “rights-of-way.” A hotly contested Bill wants to strip a city’s right to regulate vacation rentals, transferring sole power to the state. Another effort will prevent a municipality from developing regulations affecting businesses within its city limits. Lastly, some legislators would like to prevent cities from raising taxes unless it has depleted all its cash. The problem is that this “one size fits all” often benefits entities other than the 412 cities themselves. It also mandates that decisions good for large cities such as Miami or Tampa must be adopted by small municipalities like the City of Gulfport.
Like other cities throughout Florida, Gulfport City Council, and Staff decisions take into consideration what we know about our own residents, businesses, streets, utilities, revenues, infrastructure, taxation, safety, environment, as well as many other attributes. More importantly, residents and members of our community greatly assist in these decisions by getting involve, attending meetings, providing public comments, serving on boards, etc. Another key influencer is the County and/or regional cities that look and feel like us (for example, the other members of the Suncoast League of Cities).
It is important to note that there are many decisions appropriately taking place at the state level within the various state agencies. Some examples of state regulations uniformly applied across the state include individual citizen rights, adherence with the state’s constitution, annexation, taxation authorization, location of hazardous waste facilities, Public Services Commission consumer rates, gambling, establishment of minimum wage, etc. What works,however, is knowing each of the specific lanes – state, county, cities – and how they can effectively interact on behalf of Floridians and not overstep each other's boundaries.
As a City Council Member, as well as a member of the Florida/Suncoast League of Cities, it is my duty to safeguard local decisions important to Gulfport. This means expressing my opinion when the state legislature attempts to preempt cities from Home Rule constitutional rights. Residents are encouraged to also learn more about Home Rule, understand the current Bills that threaten this right, and take actions (now) by contacting state legislators regarding “preemption” Bills. I hope this review is informative to you. Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can provide further information.