7 months ago

Happy Presidents' Day from a little town in Florida celebrating liberty in a big way

By Mark Miller Senior Attorney
Not a real photo.

Today we celebrate Presidents’ Day in the United States, a holiday originally known as George Washington’s Birthday. (The Heritage Foundation suggests we should still use that moniker today; technically the name never changed, although I suppose that’s an epistemological debate well beyond your humble blogger’s ken.)

Whether you call it Presidents’ Day, or Washington’s Birthday, or Monday, here at Pacific Legal Foundation we also call it a well-deserved day off to remember the Americans who stood at the helm of our great nation and guided it on its mission to be “a city on the hill” for the world.

At PLF, we don’t just remember those leaders; rather, we seek to honor them by working all over the country to defend the liberty and freedom that our Presidents defended during their terms in office. Last week, that fight for liberty took PLF to a Columbia County Board of County Commissioners‘ meeting in the north Florida town known as Lake City. The Commission had before it a proposal to require farmers to apply for a special permit when they wished to change the way they used their property. Those who recommended this idea may have had good intentions, but ultimately the proposal as written would have arguably required farmers to either pay $1250 for a special permit when they chose to rotate their crops, or challenge the law as illegal if not unconstitutional – an expensive choice if ever there was one.

Local community leaders like Steve Dicks of the Columbia County Farm Bureau swung into action to gather the team to fight off this terrible idea.

When Steve and his team alerted PLF’s Atlantic Center to this terrible infringement on property rights, we immediately signed up to make sure the commissioners knew it should shoot down the proposal.

Environmentalists contended that failing to approve the measure would lead to polluted rivers, but the proposal did nothing to protect the waters of our state beyond what Florida law already required. Instead, the proposal simply imposed another piece of regulatory red tape via this permitting and backdoor taxing scheme on Florida farmers already overburdened with overreaching government demands that do nothing productive other than make the bureaucrats feel that they’re “doing something.”

State leaders like Charles Shinn of the Florida Farm Bureau and Jim Handley of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association stood up at the meeting and pointed out the weaknesses of the proposal. PLF proudly stood with them and spoke against the proposal as well.  After the public spoke, the commissioners — who had all lived in Florida for many, many generations — all expressed their desire to protect the waters of the place they called home and their firm belief that this proposal did nothing to further that aim.  For that reason, they voted 5-0 to kill the proposal. Afterwards, Charles Shinn correctly noted that the Commission set a precedent that night, a precedent we expect others in Florida to rely on in the future when other government officials seek to impose arbitrary and unfair hurdles before property owners who wish to do nothing more than use their property productively and without harm to others.

If he attended the meeting last week through the magic of a time machine, George Washington would have joined me in applauding everyone who worked together to make sure the Commission vindicated the rights of its citizens. Today I celebrate Presidents’ Day by thanking our Founding Fathers for bequeathing us the greatest country the world has ever known. Hopefully we can live up to the responsibility of preserving it.

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