After some light teasing by committee members about Sen. Rob Bradley's "most important bill of the year," a Senate bill to ban local governments from banning vegetable gardens is headed to the Senate floor.
The Senate Rules Committee — the bill’s last stop — voted unanimously Wednesday to advance the proposal.
Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, filed a similar bill that passed during last year’s 2018 session, but the clock ran out and a House version was never filed. Lucky for garden enthusiasts, Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, R-DeLand, has filed the House version (HB 145), which is identical in language.
“Freedom is at stake,” Bradley, the Senate budget chair said.
In January, the Senate Community Affairs Committee unanimously backed the measure which prohibits a county or municipality from regulating vegetable gardens on residential properties and voids any existing ordinance of that nature.
The vegetable garden proposal is rooted in a legal dispute about an ordinance in Miami Shores that banned the gardens from being planted in front yards. Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll sued the village, and in November 2017, an appeals court upheld a ruling that the couple does not have a constitutional right to grow vegetables in their front yard. They appealed the ruling to the Florida Supreme Court, which declined to grant review.
Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican, voted against the bill when it came up in 2018. She said she changed her vote Wednesday because of homeowners associations and other groups that are not covered by the bill and are able to create their own regulations when it comes to vegetable gardens.
“Sometimes a local government will pass an ordinance that is, for lack of a better term, a stupid ordinance,” she said. “A local government that prevents someone from putting in a vegetable garden in their yard is wrong. It’s the principle, but we can’t have someone’s private property rights impacted like that.”
The League of Cities has publicly opposed both vegetable garden bills in the past, maintaining that the legislature should respect local government’s authority to make decisions on ordinances for their communities.
No one representing the League of Cities was at the Rules Committee meeting Wednesday.