Commissioners voted 4-2 to begin repealing the ban following an appeals court ruling against it, but approved a plastic straw ban.
Plastic bags and polystyrene containers are here to stay in Gainesville after a Wednesday ruling from an appeals court.
Just one day after a long-awaited ruling that said state law preempts cities from banning polystyrene containers and single-use plastic bags, Gainesville city commissioners reluctantly voted 4-2 to begin repealing the city's ordinance.
The ordinance would have fined local retailers for giving customers the items beginning in 2020. Mayor Lauren Poe and Commissioner David Arreola voted against the repeal.
Commissioners expressed disappointment with Wednesday’s ruling, saying that the strongly worded decision from 3rd District Court of Appeal Judge Norma Lindsey gives them no leeway to enforce the ban.
"I'm of torn mind and heart here," Poe said.
In recent years, local governments have taken issue with the state Legislature's repeated attempts to control what municipalities can and can't do on a host of issues that would normally follow under home rule. When cities began banning drinking straws, the Legislature passed a bill overriding that. Gov. Ron DeSantis, however, vetoed the bill.
The growing call to ban Styrofoam and plastic bags was no different, with elected officials saying they had the right to protect their local environments. Retailers and lobbyists, however, fought back, describing those bans a cost burden many local businesses.
Last month, Gainesville’s elected leaders moved forward with the ban, despite a recommendation to repeal the ordinance by their attorney and the threat of a lawsuit by the Florida Retail Federation.
The city of Coral Gables first enacted a similar ban, which spurred a lawsuit from the retail federation. Initially, a trial court sided with the city, saying that at least three state laws affecting the case were unconstitutional. That interpretation of the law, however, was overturned Wednesday.
Since the latest ruling, Palm Beach and Gainesville have agreed to rescind their ordinance. The town of Surfside is also expected to make a change. After also being threatened by the retail federation, Alachua County commissioners also backed down from their ban.
“We expect other cities who have passed ordinances violating this state law to include repealing them during their next commission meetings,” said James Miller, a spokesman with the retail federation.
Though the push to ban the items was halted, elected leaders on Thursday said they still hope to take action in the future.
Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos, a strong proponent of the ban, said he would still like to enforce the ban on city-owned property and encouraged state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried to enforce a polystyrene ban statewide.
Hayes-Santos also took aim at Publix for its relationship with the federation, saying the grocery chain has been working diligently to stop the ban.
Commissioners agreed to continue the city’s public education campaign to inform residents about the harmful effects the items have on the environment. They have previously described the ban as taking a stance on a public health issue and have taken aim at the Legislature for siding with the retail federation.
"If every time a corporate lobbyist, advocacy firm threatens to sue and local government just backs off, then we we never actually get to have our day in court and face those challenges head on," Poe said.
Later in Thursday's meeting commissioners also gave the final approval to its straw ban that will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020. Businesses will be restricted from giving the items to customers or risk being fined.