Preemption and Home Rule: Why Businesses Need Both

Lately, the fight between Floridians promoting home rule and those advocating for statewide preemption has been as hot as the late-summer afternoons. Preemption is not a dirty word, and home rule should not be considered profane either. These concepts appear to be mutually exclusive and opposite, but there is space for both. Without diving headlong in Ecclesiastes or The Byrds’ most hummable tune, I posit to you that there is a time for both of these approaches. Businesses will flourish when there is a good balance between preemption and home rule.

The Case for Preemption

You will often find statewide business advocates appealing to our state legislators to enact a statewide preemption on a particular topic. Is it because we hate local government? No. It’s because we are an increasingly interconnected economy. Local businesses serve as the economic backbone of our communities. When it comes to doing business, the factors and variables impacting local businesses do not heed to the jurisdictional boundaries of 400+ cities and 67 counties. If the impact is felt across jurisdictional boundaries, then the policies we adopt need to cross those boundaries as well.

When the topic of preemption comes up, you will often hear concerns about the “patchwork of regulation.” This refers to several different localities adopting regulations to address the same issue but not in the same way. It’s not just a talking point. When companies operate across jurisdictional lines and those many jurisdictions regulate things like sustainability or human resources differently, I assure you the struggle is real. Consistent and predictable regulation makes a big difference as local businesses try to operate efficiently, effectively and responsibly.  And yes, profitably.

Breaking the law and flouting regulations is no business owner’s roadmap to meaningful and sustained success. Our members want to comply and be good corporate citizens. The patchwork can get in the way and excessive regulatory burdens can hinder a business from flourishing, growing, hiring more people, and living its best life. And “best life” doesn’t just mean profit for the owner: It means greater economic prosperity for a community and its citizens. In some circumstances, preemption lays the groundwork for consistent regulation and prosperity for all.

Why Home Rule Matters

But there is absolutely a time for home rule. Nothing so clearly demands and requires local direction as the issue of zoning. Local government should not tell us how to do business, but it certainly has the authority and responsibility to tell us where to do business. Whether designating commercial zones versus residential zones or deciding where manufacturing or agricultural activity should take place, these decisions shape communities. While a local government should not abuse its zoning authority as a front for regulatory overreach, the decisions about where particular activities take place within a community create the structure for communities. Citizens rely on these designations as they make important decisions about their homes and livelihood.

So here’s to preemption and home rule. May we work together to find ways to responsibly and effectively apply both of these necessary concepts.


Samantha Padgett is General Counsel of FRLA.

Short-Term Vacation Rentals and FRLA

Vacation rentals have long been a part of the fabric of enjoying the Sunshine State, and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association believes that all forms of lodging play an important role in providing Florida’s visitors a place to stay. Each year, Florida’s tourism numbers rise as more and more people choose to visit our incredible state, and we are proud to provide them with a wide array of lodging options.

So what’s the problem with short-term vacation rentals?

Traditional vacation rentals have provided countless families the opportunity to enjoy Florida with the comforts and conveniences of home. However, the advent of online hosting platforms has dramatically changed the landscape of vacation rentals. Hosting platforms have significantly expanded the searchability and availability of vacation rentals. These hosting platforms have also caused an increase in the use of traditionally residential homes as vacation rentals. Intended to connect renters and owners, the platforms may in fact facilitate large commercial operations that look and function exactly like hotels but evade important safety and sanitation requirements. The hospitality industry owes it to our guests to ensure that all are safe and protected, regardless of their chosen type of lodging.  To do that, we must address the issues with the current vacation rental landscape.

Municipalities across the nation are grappling with these issues, working to regulate hosting platforms for a variety of reasons including collecting proper taxes, ensuring the safety and privacy of guests and, and protecting homeowners who find themselves living next door to a vacation rental in a neighborhood whose zoning regulations are strictly residential. This issue is complex, and it can be difficult to strike a good balance between respecting the individual rights of property owners and protecting visitors and neighboring residents.

How do we move forward?

I believe the solutions are simple and fair, and FRLA and our Government Affairs team are working towards achieving the needed change by sitting down with regulatory agencies, our lodging members, and representatives from hosting platforms. We’re asking that all vacation rentals be licensed with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and that hosting platforms require that license number for an owner to post a listing.  We also feel that the required taxes should be collected from all lodging establishments, and that transparency and audit requirements apply equally to all.

There is a place at the table for all of types of lodging.  Having many different types of lodging available to visitors makes Florida more open and accessible to all visitors. But we need to update our regulations to ensure that we not provide special treatment to any one type of lodging.  Most importantly, we want to continue to make sure that we are providing a quality visitation experience to all of Florida’s guests, no matter where they choose to stay.



This op-ed was originally published in Today’s Hotelier in March 2019.

Be Flexible: An Alternative to Plastic Straw Bans

Straws don’t suck… but littering does. Issues regarding improperly discarded plastic straws have many concerned about the potential impact on Florida’s waterways and environment. Florida’s incredible rivers, streams, beaches, flora, and fauna are some of the state’s greatest assets for residents and visitors alike, so it makes sense for those in the hospitality industry to be committed to ensuring our environment stays healthy. Many have chosen to be proactive in their local communities by participating in voluntary straw bans or request-only campaigns where the business doesn’t give a straw unless it’s requested by the customer.


The Challenge for Hospitality Businesses

Several local government entities across the state have chosen to adopt regulations, restrictions, and bans on plastic straws. As is often the case with local regulations, they have similar provisions, but few are exactly alike. This leaves businesses that operate in multiple locations to keep up with the intricacies of each regulation. The differences can be both confusing and burdensome for businesses to accommodate.

Every business should be free to serve its customers in the lawful manner in which it sees fit. Some companies decide that providing disposable items such as straws does not fit with their culture and identity. Others may take a different approach, and there is space for both in Florida.

Plastic straws are not, in and of themselves, evil. In fact, they serve very real and positive purposes. Straws provide necessary assistance to individuals with disabilities who may need them in order to consume their chosen beverage. Parents may choose straws to prevent in-car messes when feeding children on the go.


Be Flexible: An Alternative to Banning All Straws

So how do we strike a balance on straws? First, we must acknowledge that we each have a job as individuals to ensure the disposable items we use make it into the proper waste or recycling containers. No one believes a straw belongs on the ground or in the water, and proper disposal will help keep these items where they belong.

Second, an outright ban might not always be the answer for every customer. The hospitality industry, dedicated to the service of customers and guests, can use a two-pronged approach to meet the needs of all.

First, adopt a policy of request-only. Have plastic straws available but provide them only on request of the customer. This will significantly reduce the distribution of straws. Customers who need them will ask for them, and those who don’t need them won’t receive them automatically only to throw them away.

Second, allow for use of straws made of alternative materials. There is an increased availability of straws made by other materials such as paper, metal, bamboo, and even pasta. These are great alternatives, and many businesses may find that they serve their customers well. We should be mindful, though, that alternative materials may not be suitable for all beverages. Allow businesses to decide if these alternative materials will be satisfactory to customers, and encourage and allow for the use.

By working together and making proactive choices, the hospitality industry can lead the charge on reducing the use and improper disposal of plastic straws. Blanket bans on straws are not the answer.

This week’s blog is written by Samantha Padgett, General Counsel for FRLA. For more information on our Government Relations team, please click here. You can find information about FRLA’s 2019 legislative priorities, including straw bans, here.

2018 Cabinet Elections Could Change Florida’s Political Landscape

Your mailbox is overflowing with mailers, your inbox is exploding with exposés, and the political commercials are never-ending. From local commission seats to Florida’s Cabinet, candidates are working overtime to define themselves and their opponents in an effort to win your vote. It’s enough to make you want to hide your head under a pillow until the election is over. Resist the urge! Your vote is crucial, and it will play a pivotal role in the next chapter of Florida’s policy and politics.

We’ve told you about the many constitutional amendments and given you the information you need to cast your vote on those issues. While the amendments are each important, they are certainly not the only items on what’s positioned to be a very long ballot in November. All of the seats in the Florida House and half the seats in our Senate are up for grabs. And, for the first time in a very long time, every single seat on Florida’s Cabinet is open and competitive. It is no exaggeration to say that this election could significantly change the political trajectory of our state.

What is the Cabinet?

Florida’s Cabinet is comprised of the Governor, Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture, and Chief Financial Officer.  Together, they make decisions on key issues such as the environment, land use, taxation, investment, and clemency.

Who’s running in these races?

While some of these races have several candidates, we’ve focused on the front-runners. For a complete list of candidates in all elections, check out this search page from the Florida Department of State.


While there are several candidates in the race for Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis (R) and Andrew Gillum (D) are presently leading the pack and running in a very tight race. DeSantis served as a Congressional representative for Florida’s sixth district, and Gillum currently serves as the mayor of Tallahassee.

Attorney General

For the position of Attorney General, Ashley Moody (R) and Shawn Shaw (D) have received their respective parties’ nomination. Moody is a former prosecutor and judge in Florida’s Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, which is in Hillsborough County. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and Stetson University. Shaw is the former Insurance Consumer Advocate for Florida and represents portions of Hillsborough County as the District 61 Representative in the Florida House.

Commissioner of Agriculture

In the Commissioner of Agriculture race, Matt Caldwell (R) is facing off against Nikki Fried (D). Caldwell and Fried are both life-long Floridians. Caldwell has worked as a real estate appraiser and has served in the Florida House of Representatives since 2018, representing the 73rd District from 2010 – 2012 and the 79th District since 2012. Fried is an attorney who served as the head of the Felony Division in the Alachua County Public Defender’s Office. In private practice, she defended homeowners against foreclosure in 2007-2008.

Chief Financial Officer

Florida’s current Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis (R), is running against Jeremy Ring (D). Patronis is a partner in Capt. Anderson’s, an historic seafood restaurant owned and operated by his family, and he served in the Florida House of Representatives until he was appointed CFO following the resignation of Jeff Atwater. Ring is a former tech start-up executive, having opened the first East Coast office of Yahoo! from his New York apartment. He has served in the Florida Senate from 2006 till 2016, first representing District 31 and then District 29.

What does this all mean for me?

It is likely (but certainly not guaranteed) that legislative control will remain in the hands of the Republicans, who have enjoyed control of the Cabinet for quite some time. However, the potential for Democratic presence in or even control of the Cabinet creates the possibility of a changing political landscape. Your vote helps decide Florida’s direction.

If you need to register to vote, look up your polling place, figure out who’s running for what, or track election results, the Florida Division of Elections can help you with that. Visit and take advantage of this one-stop-shop for all the information you need to participate in the democratic process during these mid-term elections.

Get out from under that pillow and vote. You can even vote early! Make sure you get to the very end of that very long ballot and ensure your voice is heard.