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Florida's social media ban for kids may survive after an agreement with DeSantis

A view of an iPhone in Washington Tuesday, May 21, 2013, showing the Twitter and Facebook apps among others. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed House Bill 1, which calls for the removal of all social media accounts held by kids under 16. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci
Gov. Ron DeSantis has had reservations about the bill, which calls for the removal of social media accounts held by minors under 16.

The governor is expected to veto the bill, but a Senate procedural move would allow lawmakers to add a negotiated proposal to a related bill that had been in a Senate committee.

After negotiations between legislative leaders and Gov. Ron DeSantis, a bill that would ban those younger than 16 from social media appears to be getting another chance.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is now expected to veto the bill, but a Senate procedural move on Friday will allow lawmakers to add a negotiated proposal to a related bill (HB3). That bill would move from a committee to the Senate floor next week.

DeSantis has had reservations about the bill (HB 1), which calls for the removal of social media accounts held by minors under 16. The legislation, House Speaker Paul Renner’s main policy priority this session, was approved. by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers last week.

The Legislature sent the bill to DeSantis last week, creating a Friday deadline for him to sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

Renner and other supporters of his bill say “addictive” social media harms the mental health of children and can be used by sexual predators to communicate with minors.

Renner has met with DeSantis behind closed doors with week to discuss concerns the governor has with the bill.

When asked to elaborate on what was in those conversations, Renner declined.

“When I can elaborate, I will elaborate,” he said during a Wednesday press gaggle.

DeSantis has previously signaled he would oppose the bill, citing concerns that the legislation failed to give parents the ability to choose to give their children social media access. He also said he was concerned the bill would be subject to legal challenges.

“You got to strike that proper balance when you are looking at these things between policy that is helping parents get to where they want to go versus policy that might be outright overruling parents,” DeSantis said last month.

Notably, the U.S. Supreme Court this week heard a challenge to laws in Texas and Florida that try to block social media companies from censoring content. Justices appeared to suggest that such state efforts on content moderation could also be unconstitutional.

Renner has remained adamant that his bill is legal and the right thing for Florida parents. After the bill passed the floor, he said the process to tailor it across bipartisan and stakeholder lines was extensive.

“We’ve worked with everyone. All stakeholders from really the first moment, and so we’ve made a number of changes. Remember, most of our priorities passed in Week 3 and 4 last year, and so we have taken a little bit more time to get to where we are but we think that we have a really good product. We’re really excited about it both being effective and constitutional,” Renner said last month.

Without a negotiated revision, a veto would have set the stage for Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo to move to override it. As Politico’s Gary Fineout pointed out on X, the Republican-controlled Legislature has not overridden a veto made by a governor in its party since taking control in 1999.

Going by the original votes for HB 1, the House currently has more than the two-thirds support of its members needed to overturn a veto. The Senate is four votes short from two-thirds, but three senators were absent during the voting.

On Wednesday, Passidomo would not say whether she would back an override attempt.

“I think the governor and the speaker are having conversations, good conversations about the bill. And I support the speaker and his initiative, and I support the governor and his thoughts. So, you know, if they can come to a good compromise, I’m all for it and I will help them in any way I can,” she said.

As the fate of the bill hangs in the balance, factions have been working to influence public opinion. Last week, Mom’s for Liberty co-founder and DeSantis ally Tiffany Justice voiced dissatisfaction with the bill on her podcast.

“I applaud the effort and the willingness to take on such a big issue because we all are concerned,” she said. “I will say as a mom of four, some of my kids do better with these types of interactions than the other, but I really don’t know if I want the government telling me you know when my kid wants to start a business and do online advertising or something that somehow he shouldn’t be allowed to do that.”

Political committees on both sides of the issue have also launched competing polling and social media advertisement campaigns. A group called the Citizen Awareness Project paid for a poll that found most Floridians oppose the bill.

Another group, the PAC Florida Right Direction, commissioned a poll that found most Floridians support the bill. That PAC has been mostly funded in the past by Renner and other influential Republicans in the Legislature who support the measure.

The Legislature can overturn vetoes no later than the end of the regular session on March 8.

Information from News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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