FL Senate ready to act on a bill that would block local governments from banning sunscreen

A Coral Restoration Foundation diver plants staghorn coral by adhering fragments to thisreef with epoxy. Credit: Coral Restoration Foundation

The Florida Senate is poised to block cities, like Key West, from banning the sale of sunscreen.

When the Senate holds its first floor session of the 2020 session on Wednesday, the first bill on the agenda is a measure (SB 172), sponsored by Republican Sen. Rob Bradley, that would preempt local regulation of over-the-counter drugs and cosmetics, including all sunscreens. Regulation of those products would be left up to the state.

Key West officials and environmental groups support allowing local governments to enact the bans, arguing that chemicals contained in some sunscreens are damaging to coral reefs. In the case of Key West, officials say they want to protect the coral reefs because they play a critical role in the region’s tourism industry.

Bradley, the powerful chairman of the Senate budget committee, said he wants to allow the sale of sunscreen because of its role in preventing skin cancer, noting that Florida ranks second in the nation in cases of melanoma.

“Sunscreen is the first line of defense against skin cancer,” Bradley said during a Rules Committee hearing on Wednesday. “I think it’s very important to encourage, not discourage, the use of sunscreen.”

But Deborah Foote, director of government affairs for the Sierra Club of Florida, said her organization opposes the bill because it limits the ability of local governments to enact environmental protections, in the absence of state regulations.

“The Sierra Club of Florida is steadfastly opposed to preemption when it hampers local government’s ability to protect its environment. Preemption, when it’s used to create a statewide standard such as regulating air quality, is appropriate,” Foote told the Rules Committee. “But when preemption is used to simply do nothing, it can have harmful consequences.”

A similar bill (HB 113), sponsored by Republican Rep. Spencer Roach of Lee County, is pending in the House.