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In Startling Avowal, Rep. Renner Says State Will Attack Home Rule to Discipline “Rogue,” Leftist Cities

| October 13, 2017

To Paul Renner, who represents Flagler County in the Legislature and is in line to be Speaker of the House, cities have no room to exercise their own authority if it differs from Tallahassee's, ideologically. (© FlaglerLive via Florida Channel)

To Paul Renner, who represents Flagler County in the Legislature and is in line to be Speaker of the House, cities have no room to exercise their own authority if it differs from Tallahassee’s, ideologically. (© FlaglerLive via Florida Channel)

Rep. Paul Renner, who represents all of Flagler County in the state House and is in line to be the Speaker of the House in 2022, took criticism earlier this year for pushing bills that diminish or eliminate home rule—the political principle that local matters are best left for city and county governments to decide. Cities are especially constrained from regulating medical marijuana dispensaries, for example, and Flagler County is battling what’s turning into a rear-guard action to protect local regulations of vacation rentals. The state Legislature is becoming more aggressive in “pre-empting” local laws, meaning forbidding local governments from passing laws that go further than state law.

Renner has been supportive of that approach, and appears to be becoming more so. Regarding vacation rentals, he said today that “it’s much, much more likely that a bill that goes pretty far in the direction of preemption is passed than not.”

But speaking on WNZF Radio’s Free For All Fridays this morning, Renner for the first time went much further, putting his philosophy in a larger context: state pre-emption will happen more and more in coming years because it reflects an ideological battle developing between a conservative state Legislature and more liberal urban centers such as Miami, St. Petersburg, Orlando and Jacksonville. All those cities have passed or tried to pass more progressive ordinances, whether to set a living wage at $15 an hour, require new homes to add solar panels, forbid the sale of puppies from puppy mills—or restrict vacation rentals. The cities are enacting those ordinances within their home-rule authority.

To Renner and the conservative Florida Legislature, the cities are going “rogue” the moment they give room to liberal policies, whatever their constituency. Renner’s avowal is startling for the degree to which he is essentially equating local autonomy as an affront to state authority, when that local autonomy differs ideologically from prevailing philosophies in the state house. He was answering questions about vacation rentals, but when asked why not let local governments reflect what local constituents want, he first said—more speculatively than with any evidence—that voters don’t always understand issues or have time to get ordinances changed at the local level, implying that it then becomes a state responsibility to do so, then placed the argument wholly in an ideological context that managed to start with vacation rentals and ended with sanctuary cities.

“Part of this, to be real blunt about it,” Renner said, “what you’re seeing and this is part of a larger conversation could have is the concentration of support for a more center-left or left-wing viewpoint, and this is again not Flagler County, but our major cities, San Francisco, New York. The Democrat Party has really become a party of dense urban areas and the rest of the country tends to be more conservative, more Republican. So part of the fight, part of the sub-context of this whole discussion, is the reason we think they’re going rogue is because it’s Bernie Sanders in charge of your local city government or county government in some cases, and doing things that really are sharp departures from the way the country has become so prosperous, so strong and so free, and so states are stepping in to say, look, we’re not going to let you destroy all the good work that we’re doing and all the economic growth we’re creating in the state for people by trying to ban or shut down particular industries that you don’t like.”

Hosts David Ayres and co-host Brian McMillan, the Palm Coast Observer editor, did not challenge Renner, nor point out the contradiction that the state’s and the nation’s strong economy is driven primarily by its urban centers, not by its more rural counties (where poverty is higher, job growth is lower, and health outcomes are poorer).

“The reason we think they’re going rogue is because it’s Bernie Sanders in charge of your local city government or county government in some cases.”

“So there is that ideological struggle that I think may become more and more prevalent,” Renner continued, “where you see battles nationwide, more battles between states as a whole that tend to be more as a whole, center-right, and cities, again as a whole more big cities than Palm Coast, tend to be more to the left. Sanctuary cities is an example.”

 He said if cities choose to be “sanctuary cities,” by taking in undocumented immigrants and not “following the law,” then the state will step in with further examples of pre-emption—though again, Renner was being inaccurate at least by omission: it is not in the purview of any city or county government, or local police, to enforce federal immigration law. In other words the Flagler County Sheriff may not arrest someone for not being in the United States legally, though sanctuary cities are currently understood at times to go a step further and decline to cooperate with the federal government on immigration matters—as is also their legal right.

“If you do that, we’re not going to fund you anymore,” Renner said, without explaining where cities would be de-funded (education? Roads? Environmental protection?). “If you don’t want to follow the law because of your ideological view on immigration and refuse to follow the law, we’re not going to fund you anymore.”

Renner had started by explaining why the Legislature is taking a more aggressive approach against home rule by describing how, in one case, a city has a $25,000 a day penalty for violation of their local vacation rental. (Renner did not specify the city. Earlier this year the most egregious example of a vacation-rental fine presented at the Legislature was that of Miami Beach, which imposes a $20,000 fine for a first violation, but not per day, rising to $40,000 for a second violation, and addressing advertising violations only.)

Renner then mentioned several other instances of what he considers to be home-rule overreach that could invite state pre-emption: a city passing a requirement that every new home have solar panels (South Miami did so in mid-July, becoming the first city in Florida to do so and angering the utility industry);a “Another that banned the use of all plastics,” in Renner’s words, though he was not entirely accurate: Coral Gables approved a ban on plastic bags only, and only single-use bags used at retailers, a move that mirrors that of about 20 states and 100 cities, along with many country-wide bans overseas. The bans are designed to address a growing crisis of plastics clogging and in some cases decimating ocean fisheries.

Renner also mentioned a city that “banned the sale of puppies,” again an exaggeration of Hillsborough County’s move to ban the sale of cats and dogs from abusive puppy mills, but not from animal-rescue shelters.

From those examples, Renner then closed the circle back to his defense of pre-emption: “These kinds of things that have happened, and also in the vacation-rental space, has created a move to further pre-empt in that area.”

As for regulating vacation rentals in particular, he said “there’s a very common sense argument to be made that we shouldn’t have 412 cities and 67 counties, we shouldn’t have over 500 different rules and regulations everywhere you go, so that it becomes confusing and unworkable.” But he was more measured in this case, staying away from calling for pre-emption wholesale.

“We do need to make sure that where there are issues that are best left to the values and uniqueness of a particular community, that that community has an opportunity to tailor things to their liking,” Renner said. Referring to Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey, who addressed a Senate panel on the issue earlier this week, he said he agreed with Coffey “on the idea that it shouldn’t be all one or all the other. there’s certainly people that would ban them all together, I’m not of that camp, and others that would say, absolutely no restrictions, whatsoever, and I’m not in that camp.”

But a bill is coming. He wants to get “rid of some of the overreach in various cities and counties” but preserve the sort of “reasonable” regulations other jurisdictions—presumably Flagler—have in place. “Where all that falls, I don’t know,” he said, “but I think you’re going to get a bill, it’s in all likelihood going to pass, and so getting in front of it and working toward some compromise would be wise, and I’m going to try to do that this year if possible.”

Still, Renner stressed: “So these local home rule issues have a broader ideological context. Maybe not on vacation rentals, but overall, and it’s something to keep in mind going forward.”

–Pierre Tristam

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Follow him at @PierreTristam.

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31 Responses for “In Startling Avowal, Rep. Renner Says State Will Attack Home Rule to Discipline “Rogue,” Leftist Cities”

  1. Jan Reeger says:

    Sounds like a dictatorial attitude we do not need in our state. The “overreach” is coming from Renner.

  2. Wishful Thinking says:

    Why don’t just do away with counties altogether and have a ‘kingdom’ in Tallahassee and be done with it – according to Renner (with his one very carefully worded concurrence of an exception of state mandted runaway vacation rentals in Flagler County.
    My husband and I chose Flagler County and left my home of 26 years Miami Dade County because we didn’t like the wild irresponsible zoning destruction of our once beautiful area ..Flagler County offered us a far more citizen oriented atmosphere . Renner obviously wants to make one big county – watch out folks – that also means you can legally be refused employment if your do not speak a foreign language – if you don’t pay tolls on every road except the one at your front door.
    Renner does not have the right to rake away MY county’s legal rights to make laws in the best interest of our county – get the hell out of our way and mind your state business like you were elected to do. Watch our budget – but don’t tell me my neighbor whose home is zoned single family can rent his house out for days or weeks at a time and ruin my property value and quality of life because he has a big ego like many of the other jackasses in Tallahassee. No way Jose – us little folk don’t want dictators – we want local elected officials to turn to.. Mind your business which is in a hell of a mess anyway. Good Day !

  3. I Be Erudite says:

    Home rule should be an issue that Republicans support. Oh the arrogance Mr Renner displays. It used to be only Democrats wanted to bully local governments.

  4. Nancy N. says:

    This is GOP hypocrisy at its finest. The GOP is using the argument that “home rule is best” to try to dismantle the rules and regulations of the ACA law, claiming that it is best if each state exercise home rule and decide what is best for its own citizens. But when municipalities are now trying to use that argument to engage in policies that the GOP state legislature doesn’t like? Suddenly “home rule” is an abomination and they are big government fans.

    Which is it guys? You can’t have it both ways. Either you are supporters of home rule or you aren’t.

  5. Fed up! says:

    Renner is not representing his constituents and needs to come down off his almighty perch. Let local governments manage their communities as they know best. We don’t need Tallahassee telling us how to do things here in Flagler County.
    His comments are outrageous and an insult to voters!

  6. GY says:

    The Righties want a Dictator…Kingdom…We’ve been there, done that…NO!!

  7. a tiny manatee says:

    The French had it right when they put the guillotine to use during the French Revolution.

  8. RickG says:

    Well stated Nancy N.

  9. Coyote says:

    It’s rather obvious that “Representative” Renner (I use the word ‘representative’ as a job title, not a job description) is basically saying “The Legislature knows best, and all you voters out there who disagree should just STFU and let the Legislature get on with ruining .. errr, I mean running the lives of the the citizens”.

  10. MRC says:

    Another one that needs to go!

  11. Steve Robinson says:

    Shame on the WNZF hosts who did not challenge Renner on his “alternative facts.” As FlaglerLive points out, economic growth in this country is disproportionately driven by big cities. The educated, ambitious young people who drive the economy are drawn to big cities not only because that’s where the jobs are, but because a progressive environment makes sense to them and is in keeping with their overall view of the world, and how we ought to treat each other.

  12. Frank Furter says:

    Isn’t this what happened to Flint, Michigan? The state decided the local government was incompetent and installed the governor’s cronies. These are the idiots who poisoned the water supply. Gee, can’t wait until that happens here.

  13. Knightwatch says:

    This guy is scary in light of what’s happening with his trumpness. In our leadership workshop at the CofC today, Renner clearly and emphatically said he is backing legislation to limit home rule. In his words, “we can’t let rogue cities do anything they want”. His message was that cities need to conform, across the board, to state (Republican) policies. They cannot be allowed to differ across the state. Forget home rule!

    This is very dangerous. Renner, Hutson and DeSantis must be stopped. They are right-wing nut jobs.

  14. Kenneth says:

    Sounds like the state government is acting like Washington now… once in power the will change any rule to suit what they really want and that is to tell everyone you don’t know anything and they know best how you can live and what you need to do… Sadly this country is going the h*** in a hand basket! This Renner needs to be voted out of office and told to go home…

  15. Anonymous says:

    Renner better recognize it is not Coffey and Company who got him elected or who will keep him elected, so he best cut the cord with these individuals. With the reputation Coffey, Netts, Landon and some county commissioners have earned around here Renner should distance himself or he will be painted with the same brush. Three county commissioners are gone that served on the board last year…..that speaks volumes. In 2018 hopefully the mouth of the south will be the next commissioner gone! We the people are paying attention and we are letting our voices be heard with our vote!

  16. Paula says:


    October 20, 2017
    4:00 P.M. – 6:00 P.M.
    City of Palm Coast Council Chamber
    160 Lake Avenue
    Palm Coast, Florida 32164

    Be there to let Renner and Hutson know what you think of this approach to governance. We have to be there in large numbers to send a strong message. They represent us – the residents and voters! And, if you’re a Republican, let them know you are, and that you don’t agree with Renner’s approach!

  17. Wishful thinking says:

    Where has ” Of the people, by the people, for the people” disappeared to?

  18. Anonymous says:

    The upper level corruption is the lower level participants who graduate and move from local levels to state and then onto national. I vote for an unknown before I vote for a well known because I know the well known shave been trained and things will be worse than they were. We have only ourselves to blame.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Never elect an attorney into office….lesson learned

  20. BillW says:

    And to think I supported those guys during their reelection.
    Hope they are looking for new jobs.

  21. PCer says:

    When can we vote him out?

  22. Bc. says:

    This jackass needs to go vote him out. I have one of the mini hotels next to me it awful parting all hours of the night around the pool drunk loud guest in and out all nite I can go on and on. A single family home should be just that not a commercial business it’s time for us voters to stand up against this fool

  23. mike coleman says:

    Representative expresses an elitist authoritarian viewpoint dripping with hubris and a lust for power.

    He is in line to be Speaker of the House in a few years.

    This means the citizens of his district have multiple opportunities to make him an ordinary citizen and do our State a favor.
    This man is not fit for the Office he holds and surely he’s not for for legislative leadership.
    Flagler County needs better and Florida doesn’t need to be represented by anyone sharing his mindset.

  24. Edith Campins says:

    Another wingnut Republican who thinks he knows best. Vote him out!!!

  25. Paula says:

    Please email Senator Hutson:
    and Representative Renner:

    We need to let our “representatives” know how we feel about them taking away local control, and allowing non-homesteaded short-term rentals to drive out the permanent residents (Anna Maria Island, with a really bad situation, and a really bad Senator has lost 20% of its residents in the past five years…due to investor-owned short-term rentals.

    Please make your voice heard, and let Renner and Hutson (email above) know how you feel!

    And, see below – Renner and Hutson will be here on October 20th – let them know how you feel in person as well as by email!

    October 20, 2017
    4:00 P.M. – 6:00 P.M.
    City of Palm Coast Council Chamber
    160 Lake Avenue
    Palm Coast, Florida 32164

  26. RTC says:

    I hope Representative Renner reads all of these comments and realizes that not one is supportive of what he is saying. Does he realize that we, the voters, are largely unhappy with the path that our legislature is taking with respect to taking away Home Rule, and in particular with taking it away for Short Term Rental matters. And now he is proving to us that we are unhappy with him also.

    He may be in line to become Speaker of the House, and he may feel he is indebted to Speaker Corcoran, and has to do what he says, but Representative Renner should realize that we may all decide to put up our own candidate in the next Republican Primary and he won’t have to worry about fending off any possible Democratic opponent or preparing to become Speaker of the House.

    How dare he suggest that this is a Democrat issue, and it is the Republicans that need to take away our Home Rule – does he not realize that our County, which he represents, is largely Republian, and we do not agree with what is seems to be doing. He will be a one term Representative if he does not start listening to his constitutants.

  27. Anonymous says:

    People who do not attend public meetings, do not write letters and emails to elected officials (creating public records) must realize that local politics are very important because these are the politicians that change our way of live locally and their decisions impact the level of our property taxes and other collected taxes. We who live here, should be making the decisions on how our money is being spent, so we have to be heard. As it is we are letting locals politicians and officials run out of control with how they are managing our bank account. We are letting a County Administrator and City Manager who just landed here for a job, and has no regard for this county or the people who live here, feed BS to the county commissioners and city council and they love it, and lick their lips after each spoonful. They are being spoon fed and treat these fly by nights like they work for them instead of the other way around. The City Council and County Commissioners are so brain dead they allow for contracts to be presented and accepted that prevent us from releasing Coffey, Hadeed and Landon without a golden parachute. I would have expected the first order of business in this county would have been for our local leaders to examine and discuss current contracts and be working on making changes when these expire to not allow up to be in these type of situations anymore, and that didn’t happen. The City Council members don’t even want to review the city charter and improve it and they want limited public participation. Why is that, because they are puppets for Jim Landon and Mayor Holland, Bob Cuff and Klufus are puppets for Landon. If Hollond, Cuff and Klufus don’t start standing up and making dome educated decisions we need to vote them out next term. Once Netts, Holland, Cuff and Klufus are out we should never let them hold public office in this county again! It amazes me that Hanns and Netts want to come back into politics after they are done and that voters would even consider voting for them. Hanns remained on the County Commissioner for like 28 years being a jokester and people voted for him because he was funny, not because he was qualified. Hanns was finally figured out and voted out of office. He has barely done any other job in his life other than be a county commissioner. He never held a General Contractor’s License, yet he boasts about how he was a carpenter and built houses and his military career was so short if you blinked you missed it and he brags all the time about being a veteran. We don’t need any more people holding public office that think they should be in office because they feel they are entitled because their dad was in politics. Holland is another one who never really held a job other than being a county commissioner for a few years. Nate McLaughlin, a realtor, ran for county commissioner when the bottom of the market fell out and he was broke as a joke. We cannot not keep taking our hard earned tax dollars and paying people like this. This is not a game of learn as you go. Renner is an attorney and new to politics—another politician that we cannot afford. Get involved and ask questions and tell those who hold public office what we want in this county. Granted, not everyone will get what they want, but if there is a public consensus on matters hopefully that our elected officials will then represent us, and not fly by the seat of their pants or listed to the manipulators (the local public elected officials and their staff) and this would be better than what we are getting now. Our rights to do what we want with our own privately owned property is being taken away little by little….it won’t stop with vacation rentals.

  28. anon says:

    Renner was re-elected in 2016. He, Trump-licking DeSantis and Hutson need to be made private citizens next year. Stop electing GOPer attorneys, people. In fact, stop electing any member of that cro-magnon party who cheer for nazis, white supremists and facists who have come out of the woodwork like the roaches they are now that white supremists (one a German) are in national power.

  29. Facts says:

    Renner and Hutson must be voted out!

    They are not representing their constituents. They are being bought and paid for by AIRBNB, HOME-AWAY, Florida Realators Association, The National Realators Association in addition to the Florida Vacation Management Associationled by Lobbyist Lori Killinger.

    If the legislature polled their constituents they would quickly find out that the residents who vote in Florida do not want to live next door to unregulated vacation rentals. But the only survey they use is the one conducted by the Florida Vacation Management Industry.

    Here are the facts. One law is not going to be effective in dealing with these vacation rental dwellings. Each municipality must regulate these dwellings using their home rule authority. Miami’s issues are not Flagler issues. One legislature bill or ordinance state wide will not work.

    Renner likes to bring up a municipality that fines offenders 20 k. But the municipality trailered their ordinance to be effective in their situation. In that municipality investors are licensing vacation dwellings for a week at a cost of 25 K. Do you think for one minute a fine of 500 will deter them from not breaking the law.

    Renner or Hutson never will admit that in 2011 the legislature created an over reach. They where the ones who created this out of control problem. They sided with the vacation industry over their own constituents rights. In 2011 they exempted these dwellings from the local zoning codes that protected neighborhoods from incompatible uses. These vacation rentals are not rentals at all. They are transient public lodging establishments busniesses just like a hotel, motel or bed and breakfast. They all use licensing agreements not rental or lease agreements.

    If Renner and Hutson along with our own county administrator and commissioners had any balls they would call for a full repeal of the 2011 Senate Bill 883. This would solve the issue. Given back full home rule control to it residents. Who knows better. The State or the people subject to these issues.

    It is time for all of us to stand together and take back or neighborhoods. Show up at the legislature meeting scheduled at the county building and vote these corrupt politians out.

  30. Jim O says:

    Completely agree. We spoke he did not or will not listen. We need to make our voice heard loud during the primaries. So this clown does not make it any further.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Time to empty the clown car. We must vote these neo- tyrants out of office!

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