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By Jai-Leen James, Contributing Reporter

MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – On Friday night, Governor Ron DeSantis declining to sign an environmental bill that would have prohibited local governments from banning plastic straws for the next five years.

Governor Ron DeSantis speaking in January at an environmental announcement in the Everglades, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, News
Governor Ron DeSantis speaking in January at an environmental announcement in the Everglades, photo by State of Florida.

On Tuesday, April 30th, the Florida Senate passed a bill on a 24 – 15 vote that imposed a moratorium on plastic-straw bans. House Bill 771 was on its way to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis to be signed into law.

If the governor passed the bill, local governments could not enforce a ban on plastic straws until July 2024. Additionally, the bill would issue a $25,000 fine to local businesses that regulate plastic straw usage.

In Governor DeSantis’ veto letter to Secretary of State Laurel Lee, he said municipalities that prohibit plastic straws have not “frustrated any state policy” or “harmed the state’s interest.”

The negative effects of plastic straws have grown to become a national concern. In 2015, Science magazine reported that more than eight tons of plastic ends up on the world’s oceans and is a threat to sea turtles, manatees, fish and other wildlife.

Currently, ten cities in the state – including Miami Beach – have rules to govern plastic straw use. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, plastic straws are the fifth most common trash item found on beaches.

The amended bill was introduced by committee member Senator Travis Hutson (R – St. Augustine). Prior to the amendment, an earlier version of the bill (Senate Bill 588) would have required restaurants and other food businesses to only distribute plastic straws per customer request.

In the vote, Democrats Lauren Book of Plantation, Randolph Bracy of Orlando and Bobby Powell of West Palm Beach crossed party lines to vote in favor of the bill. Republican George Gainer of Panama City opposed it.

The bill also demands a study be done of local straw bans that have already been enacted in Florida. Information used by governments in their law decision making will be investigated.

In opposition to the bill, Senator Jason Pizzo (D – Miami) said, “Five years is far too long for those who have taken the necessary steps to enact these ordinances, five years is far too long to wait if the science comes back next week or next year.”

Miami Beach launched the #PlasticFreeMB  resilience strategy, Miami, Florida, News
Miami Beach launched the #PlasticFreeMB resilience strategy aimed towards local businesses, photo internet recreation.

Back in 2012, Miami Beach was one of the first cities in the United States to pass an ordinance to prohibit businesses from providing single-use plastic straws on the beach.

In July 2018, the city commission unanimously passed legislation to include plastic stirrers in prohibition and to extend regulation to all parks, docks, piers, dock ramps, marinas and beaches within city limits. This also includes sidewalk cafes like the ones on Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road.

#PlasticFreeMB is a resilience strategy aimed towards local businesses. Businesses are encouraged to implement strategies to reduce plastic usage from its establishment. More than seventy businesses identify as #PlasticFreeMB members.

The morning of the vote, Miami Beach mayor Dan Gelber posted this video in opposition of the bill on his public Facebook account.

He stated, “The Florida Legislature is poised to preempt cities like ours from regulating single use plastics. Please share this video explaining why that would be bad for our community.”

National Geographic reported that ninety percent of plastic used has been found in landfills and oceans. A study by the World Economic Forum suggests that the oceans will become more dense with plastic than fish by 2050.

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