Sen. Jason Brodeur files -- then immediately withdraws -- preemption on leaf blowers

The amendment would prevent local governments from banning the gas-powered devices

Feb. 6, 2024

By Beth Kassab

Sen. Jason Brodeur launched a stern but fleeting attempt to prohibit cities like Winter Park from banning gas-powered leaf blowers.

In a short exchange during a meeting of the Senate Committee on Community Affairs on Tuesday, Brodeur said Winter Park was the impetus behind the idea, but immediately withdrew the amendment he filed on an unrelated bill. He warned he would “keep the language” and potentially make a harder push to preempt local governments from mandating electric leaf blowers another time.

“I intend to keep working with the city of Winter Park to show them if they keep doing nonsense like this to hurt their small businesses it’s going to be a lot worse later,” he said.

Brodeur, the Republican who represents Winter Park and Maitland along with Seminole County, called the city’s ban on gas-powered leaf blowers “preposterous” and “akin to mandating that you screen in pools.”

(In fact, Florida statutes do require new pools be enclosed, fenced or meet other safety measures to pass a final inspection.)

State legislators have responded to local officials in recent years with an increasing number of preemptions — measures that take control away from from elected city and county leaders.

The idea of “local control” was once the mantra of many Florida Republicans. But that has evolved into cheerleading a heavier-handed state government, particularly when the topics resonate as the ideological battles or culture wars popularized by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Florida Legislature has removed the ability of local governments or school boards to have a say in matters such as setting renewable energy standards, gun ranges, tenants’ rights, affordable housing projects and the books on the shelves at public schools.

Vice Mayor Sheila DeCiccio, who is running for mayor, said during a forum at the Winter Park Library on Thursday that she understood the reason Brodeur pulled the amendment is because of the number of cities in South Florida who “complained bitterly” that they are very satisfied with their bans on gas leaf blowers.

She noted that Winter Park adopted the gas leaf blower ban in 2022, joining cities such as Naples and Bicayne Bay, because of noise complaints during the pandemic. She said city officials believed at the time that waiting 30 months — or until July 1 of this year — to enact the ban was enough time for landscape companies to transition to new equipment.

In addition to regulating noise, the ban takes an incremental but significant step away from the emission-producing devices.

“This decision reflects the city’s dedication to prioritizing environmentally conscious practices as well as its commitment to sustainability, reducing noise and air pollution, and protecting the water quality of its lakes,” according to a recent city press release. “Gas-powered leaf blowers are known for their noise and significant environmental impact, emitting harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. These pollutants contribute to air quality degradation and pose health risks to both residents and the environment.”

In January, commissioners approved a $50 utility bill rebate for any resident who purchased an electric leaf blower. That move sparked debate over the ban, originally passed in 2022 but with a 30-month delay before it begins in July.

Landscape companies complained about the cost of high-grade electric models, the duration of the batteries and the weight of the equipment on workers’ backs.

Mayor Phil Anderson proposed an additional six-month delay of the ban, but commissioners voted 3-2 in a special meeting called on the topic to keep the July 1 start date.

A city web page is now devoted to the reasoning behind the ban as well as this comparison of gas-powered vs. electric leaf blowers.

The city’s comparison shows that the upfront cost of the electric devices and their batteries are far higher than the gas-powered models. But the cost of operating each model per hour is lower for the electric blowers when the cost of electricity vs. gasoline is factored in.

The city says its Parks & Recreation Department has replaced 98% of its leaf blowers with electric models and 100% of its trimmers. It’s also invested in two zero-turn lawn mowers and three utility carts.



Share This