Ban on straw bans goes to Gov. DeSantis for signature

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The legislature is sending to Governor Ron DeSantis a bill that would ban cities from banning plastic straws.

Under the legislation, St. Petersburg and 17 other cities in Florida would have to abandon their efforts to stop restaurants from serving straws with drinks.

While many agree straws are at the top of a long list of threats to Florida's waterways, wildlife, and ecosystems, those who want to ban the bans say more research needs to be done to make sure plastic straws are as bad as they're being made out to be.

St. Pete waged war on straws in December, telling restaurants to stop automatically giving straws out with drinks. Instead, customers who wanted a straw would have to request one.

Paper straws cost restaurants three pennies versus plastic ones, which cost about three-tenths of a penny.

But to Galley owner Pete Boland, it's worth it. His restaurant went from giving out 1,500 straws a week to a fifth of that.

"Educating the guest about the massive waste that has occurred with straws, it has been really good," he said.

Tuesday night, the legislature sent Gov. Ron DeSantis a bill that blocks straw bans for the next five years.

In January, Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-Clermont) tweeted, "The decision to use a plastic straw should be made by citizens, not government."

The bill calls for studies on the "data and conclusions" that 18 Florida cities, including St. Pete and Largo, used to when considering their bans.

"This is not a constitutional amendment, this is statutory. We can change it at any time, in any session, we can do that next year, as long we agree we look at the science," said State Sen. Keith Perry (R-Gainesville).

Environmental groups are beginning to ramp up pressure on the governor to veto the bill, saying plastic straws are obviously bad for water and animals. They say, among the trash picked up from Florida's beaches, straws are sixth-most prevalent.

Environmentalists blame the business lobby for the "ban on bans" bill.

"The legislature goes hog-wild in trying to regulate the cities, the counties, and stopping them from regulating business," said Frank Jackalone of the Sierra Club.

The ban on bans would mean St Pete's hopes of ramping up its ask-for-straw policy to a full-fledged ban by next year would be on hold. 

Mayor Rick Kriseman tweeted that "St. Pete gonna St. Pete regardless of any preemption. Our business owners and residents get it and will do right."

Will Ron DeSantis sign this bill?

Environmental groups aren't sure, because he has said he wants to be known as an environmental governor who cleans up Florida's waterways.

His office has not responded as to which way he is leaning.