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Florida Dems Refile '100% Renewable Energy' Bill, Note Republican 'Shift In Tone' On Climate Change

Ryan Dailey

A bill to put Florida on a path toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 has again been filed for the coming session. Though the measure died last year, its sponsors are hopeful a “shift in tone” by Republicans is a good sign for its chances in the 2020 legislative session.

Democratic Representative Anna Eskamani and Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez are the measure’s principle backers, again. Eskamani says it’s something that both parties can get behind.

“This issue transcends the altruistic nature that many of us carry, to care about Earth, and actually really dives into the economic need to do something,” Eskamani said at a press conference rolling out the legislation Wednesday. “Because it’s a job creator to pursue green energy, but again the cost of doing nothing is huge.”

Eskamani and Rodriguez point to potential economic upsides to moving toward solar. It’s something they say appeals to conservative and libertarian-minded lawmakers. Rodriguez says in Florida, unlike states like Texas:

“There are not jobs in oil and gas, this is a solar state. If we break the strangle-hold the utilities have on energy policy here in Tallahassee, we will unleash jobs in renewable energy,” Rodriguez said. “I will tell you – the solar installers in my district, it is a booming business.”

Credit Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM
Democratic Florida Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez will again wear rain boots during the 2020 legislative session to highlight climate change concerns.

Rodriguez, who represents District 37 in Miami, notes a “shift in tone” from Republican state leadership. Specifically, he referenced comments by incoming Republican House Speaker Chris Sprowls, who says his party shouldn’t shy away from pursuing solutions to climate change. Though, Sprowls calls Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s wide-ranging Green New Deal “utter nonsense” as a solution.

Eskamani drew contrasts between her bill and the Green New Deal.

“Versus the Green New Deal that has specifics on public responsibility – our bill is very small, it’s two pages – and all it states is that the Commissioner of Agriculture, under her department, will convene a committee that has a state goal of 2050, but then we craft a Florida way to get there,” Eskamani said.

The Department of Agriculture’s Office of Energy would be tasked with creating a plan to submit to state leaders by 2022.

The bill requires all state agencies, colleges and universities and public utilities to comply. It has an interim goal set in 2030 to be getting 40 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable energy like solar.

Committee weeks are underway at the Capitol, ahead of a January start to the annual lawmaking session.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.