Speaker Paul Renner’s focus for the Florida Legislature in 2024? Energy and social media

TECO power plant in Apollo Beach Florida burns coal and releases water vapor plus greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that contribute to climate change
TECO coal-burning power plant in Apollo Beach, Florida. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (Jan. 2010).

By Jim Turner ©2023 The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Paul Renner said Tuesday that lawmakers during the 2024 legislative session will take steps to support energy companies and place limits on children’s access to social media sites.

The Palm Coast Republican said social media is having a “devastating effect on kids,” and lawmakers should be able to impose online regulations “in a meaningful way.” He did not provide a detailed proposal.

“I want to hear from everybody on what that looks like,” Renner said during an appearance before the Capital Tiger Bay Club at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. “You know, the idea that we can be libertarians where our kids are concerned? We’re not libertarians with our kids on anything. Adults are a different story. They wanted to do all that stuff. That’s their business. And it’s a free country. But for our kids, we’ve got to protect them.”

One possibility could be to require age verification in areas such as pornography, Renner indicated.

With the 2024 session set to start Jan. 9, Renner said he also wants to ensure Florida utilities have enough power to keep the state from “brownouts and blackouts that places like California have suffered.”

“Unfortunately, that works at cross purposes with an uber-aggressive timeline that climate activists have put us on where they want us to go tomorrow,” Renner told reporters. “If I had a magic wand, and I could say, ‘All energy is clean energy and we will never use fossil fuels again,’ and we could do that tomorrow at no cost, I would do it. Everybody should want a clean future. But that’s not realistic.”

In April, President Joe Biden highlighted steps aimed at reducing emissions by 2030, including driving down emissions from power plants and in transportation.

Last month, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue turned down $320 million in federal money aimed at reducing tailpipe emissions, arguing federal transportation officials overstepped their authority in setting up the federal Carbon Reduction Program, a five-year, $6.4 billion effort focused on emissions that contribute to global warming.

Renner, who called himself “agnostic” when it comes to climate change, said Florida needs to get out from “politically driven timelines.”

Speaking of utilities, Renner said, “I don’t want to dictate anything to these people other than engage in fuel flexibility, what you think is best to deliver a low cost for our workers, our middle class.”

Renner described his proposal as offering energy that is “truly safe,” “inexpensive,” and “delivers a reliable grid.”

“I want clean energy. But is there an alternative?” Renner said. “Is it hydrogen? Natural gas? You know, is it nuclear? Do we need to revisit nuclear, which is being done in France, with no downside, no problems?”

Renner also said he’s worked with Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, on her “Live Healthy Initiative,” which is designed to increase access to health care, including by attracting more doctors to Florida.

Passidomo is expected to roll out details of her proposal on Thursday.

“There’s things I’m really, really excited about,” Renner said. “There’s things that we would like to include. And we have included, in fact, in some of our initiatives already. So, some of that stuff is already in our input. And we’re continuing to give input, but there’s a lot of areas of agreement there.”

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