TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Earlier today, the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee approved House Bill 1. The bill would criminalize First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly and enhance penalties for people accused of committing a crime at any gathering. Substantial discretion will be left to charging officers, leaving the door open to abuse. The legislation has already passed the Florida House of Representatives but must still pass the full Senate.
Despite a recent report from Dr. Rick Harper, economist and long-time director of the University of West Florida Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development showing significant fiscal costs to Florida and negative impacts on our economy and testimony on these costs, the Appropriations Committee still approved House Bill 1 on Friday.
The Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform opposes this authoritarian bill. In a further attempt to silence advocates, the bill allows the Governor and Cabinet to overrule local governments that reallocate law enforcement budgets for much-needed services in their communities. This would take control away from the people who know their communities best and force local governments to make cuts to schools, roads, and other needed projects when that is not the will of the voters or local elected officials.
The following is a statement from Carrie Boyd, policy counsel for the SPLC Action Fund.
“This bill will hurt our state. It’s also widely unpopular. The public has spoken, and it doesn’t want this bill to become law. But our legislators are ignoring the will of the people and continuing to move this bill forward towards becoming law. It will have a chilling effect on protest everywhere, regardless of the content of the protest. As Dr. Rick Harper has shown, it will also cost taxpayers a lot of money and do nothing to make the average citizen of Florida safer.”
The following is a statement from Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel for the ACLU of Florida.
“If HB 1 becomes law, this legislation will silence dissent and infringe upon the public’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest and assemble. Protesters peacefully marching or rallying on any issue will face the threat of criminal prosecution anytime a protest turns violent through no fault of their own. This harmful and unnecessary legislation is fiscally irresponsible and serves no public safety benefit, as law enforcement already has all the tools it needs to hold individuals accountable. Hundreds of people have showed up at Florida’s Capitol to oppose this bill, and thousands more have contacted legislators to urge their opposition. We can only hope legislators start listening to the people they represent.
For a full list of organizations involved in the Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform, go to https://www.betterjusticefl.com/.