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House Bill 1 is unwanted by Floridians; a threat to free speech and local government control

Bill was also passed out of regular order and will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Earlier today, the Florida Senate passed House Bill 1 after sending it through only one Senate committee -- ignoring the regular process of hearing a bill in three committees to ensure adequate public comment before sending it for a vote by the full Senate. The bill would criminalize First Amendment rights to free speech and increase violence at protests by emboldening vigilantes. Substantial discretion will be left to charging officers, which almost guarantees abuse. The legislation has already passed the Florida House of Representatives and is now on its way to FL Gov. Ron DeSantis desk.   

Despite recent reports 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 Senate still approved House Bill 1. 

The Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform opposes this authoritarian bill. In a further attempt to silence Floridians, 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 is wrong. What’s in it is wrong, and the way it was passed is also wrong. Hundreds of people showed up in Tallahassee to oppose this bill, and thousands more wrote to their legislators in opposition. It’s also widely unpopular. But the bill still passed the Florida Senate because legislators were afraid to go against Gov. DeSantis. Many Republican legislators know this is a bad and unnecessary bill, but with the exception of Senator Jeff Brandes, none of them would stand up to the governor.” 

The following is a statement from Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel for the ACLU of Florida. 

“When Governor DeSantis signs this into law, the people’s right to peacefully protest and assemble will be at risk. 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.  

“Under this bill, vigilantes who kill or injure protesters will be shielded from civil liability, while nonviolent protesters will be criminalized for exercising their First Amendment rights. This makes no sense. It is clear that the Governor does not want to hear from Floridians that they are unhappy with his failure to address the critical needs facing the state - a costly and broken criminal justice system, rising unemployment, and the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Instead of listening to Floridians, Governor DeSantis wants to lock them up.  

“This bill is not about protecting public safety, it is about preserving the status quo and is rotten to the core, as evidenced by the Senate’s refusal to let Floridians testify against it in the multiple committees that should have heard the bill.  There is a thin line between authoritarianism and the rule of law. Unfortunately, that line has been crossed.” 

For a full list of organizations involved in the Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform, go to https://www.betterjusticefl.com/.