By REID TUCKER
Paxton City Attorney Lori Bytell informed the Town Council that new state legislation that requires local governments to cede all issues relating to firearm regulation to the state.
With the July 14 passage of the new law, no city or county governments in Florida may create new policies related to gun control, nor may local government entities enforce any pre-existing gun ordinances should they have any on the books. In fact, local governments must strike any old rules applying to gun laws from their charters, Bytell said. The U.S. Constitution specifically allocates to the states the ability to preempt cities and counties regarding gun control rules and Florida is simply exercising that authority.
Bytell said the state’s aim was to prevent local governments from making gun control rules that are incompatible with state laws, though the purpose of the legislation is to ensure local policies are not any more or less restrictive than Florida’s policies.
“The state of Florida does not want individual cities or counties to pass laws inconsistent with what they intend to pass for state laws,” Bytell said. “The state is taking a very strong stance on gun issues. They’re saying ‘you’re out of the gun business.’ They just don’t want us doing it.”
The new law also makes cities found in violation liable for stiff fines of up to $100,000 and makes individual officials personally liable for up to $5,000 in fines. Furthermore, the law disallows attorneys defending the individuals or cities in any court action related to noncompliance with the new law from receiving compensation from the local government in question.
Though Bytell was not aware of any gun control policies passed by past town councils, she nevertheless advised the Council to adopt a resolution that not only acknowledges full compliance with the new state law but also nullifies any old firearm-related ordinances, should there be any. Such a resolution can be passed without a special meeting or extra advertising costs but will have to go through the standard adoption process of all city ordinances, which means it will have two public readings before it can be put to the vote. The Council voted unanimously to allow Bytell to draft the proposed ordinance for review and first reading at the next regular meeting.
In his report to the Council, Mayor Hayward Thomas discussed the feasibility of extending the city’s water system northeast by roughly one mile toward Lakewood Park, the highest natural point in Florida, located on County Highway 285 N. The Council members agreed that the idea was financially advantageous, as more than five homes would be serviced by extending the water system, and they voted unanimously to begin work on the project
The Council also acted on a written recommendation from the city’s auditors and unanimously voted to pass a resolution closing out water system accounts if they remain inactive for a year or longer. Though the accounts will be closed out, the customers’ information will remain on the record so as to prevent customers from attempting to re-open old accounts and avoid making good on outstanding payments. The city will still be able to collect delinquent fees on inactive accounts.
The remainder of the item on the Council’s agenda breezed by, ultimately making it a short meeting in spite of the ground that was covered. The Council voted unanimously to begin advertising for bids on renovations to the city’s wastewater treatment plant and also set the preliminary budget workshop at an hour before next month’s regularly scheduled meeting on Aug. 16.