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Florida lawmakers could ban cities from nixing plastic straws

St. Pete's new rules could be at stake
Posted at 7:24 AM, Feb 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-04 18:33:32-05

FLORIDA — Straws, plastic bags...there’s been some big pushes to get rid of plastic throughout Florida; not only by business owners but lawmakers too.

Now there’s another proposed bill — House Bill 603. Republican Lake County Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who introduced the bill, writes, “a municipality, county, or other local governmental entity may not adopt, enforce, or implement any ordinance, rule or law that would further restrict a food service establishment from distributing single-use plastic straws to a customer."

"The Decision to use a plastic straw or not should be made by the citizens - not the government." — Anthony Sabatini

It's frustrating news for St. Pete leaders who have spent years working on a straw ban and successfully passed on in December. Businesses can currently only give out straws by request. By 2020, any businesses caught dispensing plastic straws could be fined. Yet, that ban is in limbo as state leaders work on the new bill.

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman says it's upsetting. “It’s incredibly frustrating for the legislature to step in and say we haven’t talked to your folks but we do know what’s better for them and so we are just going to do this,” Kriseman said with a sigh. He says it is the latest example of big government squashing local accomplishments. "Our state leaders always say they don't want to be ruled by leaders in Washington DC. We, as local leaders, know what's best for our citizens. We spent a long time looking at this ordinance before we passed it," Kriseman added.

Most St. Pete businesses tell ABC Action News they already switched over to paper straws. Some, like Ferg's Sports Bar, like the idea of business owners deciding what's best for them. "I'm in favor of leaving it up to the business owners to decide what’s best for their business. We're the ones who know best,” explained owner Mark Ferguson who says his customers still prefer plastic straws.

Nate Bohn, who works at vegan restaurant Cider Press Cafe, says it's a backwards idea. "I wish state leaders would leave it alone. We're already banning plastic straws, why take a step backwards?" he questioned.

Doc Ford's, a restaurant near Fort Myers Beach, adopted the plastic straw ban last year when Fort Myers Beach leaders banned them from businesses. The family-owned restaurant didn’t need to adopt the ban because they’re actually not on Fort Myers Beach, but managers felt it was necessary.

“Why would we not want to participate and lead the example within our own community,” said Doc Ford's manager, Eric Munchel. “If you can ban it and make it so that it’s not available then no one’s really gonna miss it, in my opinion.”

RECOMMENDED: St. Pete City Council votes to ban plastic straws

Sanibel Sea School Executive Director, Bruce Neil disagrees with the bill. He was a part of the process to ban plastic straws in Sanibel.

“I think some level of governmental regulation is needed to get citizens to act for the betterment of the community,” Neil said.

Plus environmentalists like Tricia Fancher with Keep Lee County Beautiful doesn’t see any ban as an end all be all. “I do hope that people understand that straws are one very tiny piece of the problem, single-use plastics overall are the problem,” Fancher said.

If any bill on the table pertaining to straw bans is voted into law, it will become effective July 1st.