by Pat Raia
With violence occurring at protesting events during the summer of 2020 as well as in the nation’s capital on Jan. 6, a pair of Florida state lawmakers filed bills that would increase some penalties for rioters, and make it easier for residents to appeal their local government attempts to defund police.
Filed on Jan. 6 by State Sen. Danny Burgess, SB 484, Combating Public Disorder would authorize a resident of a municipality to file an appeal to the Administration Commission if the governing body of that municipality makes a specified reduction to the operating budget of a municipal law enforcement agency. It would also allow legal action against a municipality for obstructing or interfering with reasonable law enforcement protection during a riot or an unlawful assembly.
The proposed legislation would also increase penalties for crimes including assault and battery that are committed during a riot, would prohibit anyone from defacing, injuring or damaging a memorial, and would allow legal action against a local government that obstructs reasonable law enforcement protection during an unlawful gathering.
If passed, the legislation stipulates that anyone arrested for a violation must be held in law enforcement custody until their first court appearance.
Finally, in response to Twitter's decision to permanently ban Tweets by President Donald Trump, and the possible removal of the Parler app from the Apple App Store, SB 484 also makes it a criminal offense for anyone to bully or intimidate others online, for social media websites to provide electronic notice to any user whose account has been disabled or suspended within 30 days, and to explain why the account was suspended or disabled.
“This bill goes a step further by signaling to social media websites that regardless of a person’s background, political history, religion, race, gender, or any other identifying measure, Twitter and Facebook cannot be the sole judge, jury, and executioner on American’s First Amendment rights,” Burgess said.
On the same day, a twin bill HB 1 was filed in the Florida House of Representatives by Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin.
SB 484 and HB1 will be considered when the Legislature resumes in March.