Mike Hill is Pensacola’s most conservative representative in the state legislature. But for some reason, he thinks we need big government in Tallahassee to tell citizens and businesses what they can and can’t do about something as mundane as single-use plastic straws.

I believe in home rule and devolved government — the idea that, wherever possible, local communities should make decisions for themselves, at the city and county level, or even at the neighborhood level. My entire theory of government, really, boils down to something Abraham Lincoln wrote in 1854:

“The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves—in their separate, and individual capacities. In all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere.”

Abraham Lincoln

It’s pretty straightforward: government exists to do things that we can’t do individually, like build roads and organize a national defense. But we don’t need government to tell us whether or not, for example, we can use single-use plastic straws.

Some cities and states — mostly ones far to the left of Pensacola, politically — have banned or restricted the use of single-use plastic straws, which are terrible for the environment and end up in landfills and waterways, where they basically never degrade. I’m trying to make a personal effort to use them less, but I don’t support these kind of legislative bans. I trust individual business owners and consumers to make the choices that are right for them.

Barring that, I trust local communities to decide for themselves whether or not something like single-use plastic straws should be prohibited community-wide, after public input.

That’s why I was surprised to see Rep. Hill sign on to cosponsor a bill that would prohibit restaurants from giving out single-use plastic straws unless a customer asks for them, and would also prohibit local communities from regulating straws. If Hill’s bill becomes law, only big government in Tallahassee will be able to make straw laws.

The regulation of single-use plastic straws is preempted to the state. 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 customers.

Proposed bill HB 603

This is just the latest big government effort from supposed small government conservatives, who have barred local governments from regulating everything from guns to vacation rentals in recent years.

Trust the citizens and small businesses you serve, Mike. We can figure out what to do about plastic straws without big government’s help.

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