Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner, Nikki Fried, ridiculed Gov. Ron DeSantis and those who who were in attendance at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Operation Center in Winter Haven on Monday. Stating that the support for HB 1 (Combating Public Disorder Act) is embracing a measure that defies free speech rights.
Fried said, “Republicans love to talk about the constitution, but they’re shredding it with bills like House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 90. Silencing speech and blocking the vote is what communist regimes do. HB 1 should never have been signed.”
Fried says that if people would actually read the bill they would know just how broad and open to interpretation it is.
She says that the bill would allow for the arrest of anyone, who is unwilling, caught up in a protest that happened to turn violent. She said it gives law enforcement too much power and violates the rights of Floridians.
Fried said the bill also allows for drivers to interpret what a peaceful protest is and would protect a driver from criminal prosecution if they plow through a crowd and injure or kill someone.
DeSantis said, “It is the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country and there’s just nothing even close. We’re also putting an end to the bullying and intimidation tactics of the radical left by criminalizing doxing.”
Rep. Fentrice Driskell, of Tampa, agrees with Fried. Driskell said the new law is poorly defined and “open to interpretation,” for law enforcement.
Driskell said, “This bill is not really designed to make our communities safer. It’s further complicating things for Floridians, it’s infringing on their constitutional rights and it’s making it confusing for law enforcement officers because so much is open to interpretation, and I think it will have to be litigated in the courts. DeSantis sought it more for campaigning purposes than governing.”
Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “We ask law enforcement officers to take an oath to protect and serve. We, as leaders, in turn, have a responsibility to protect them as they ensure order and safety in the communities they serve.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said, “I commend Governor DeSantis and his strong leadership because he truly knows how to protect this great State of ours. This bill becoming a law is a perfect example of his passion of ensuring that the hard-working, law-abiding citizens and their property is and will be protected. This law will separate the law-abiding citizen exercising their Constitutional Rights from the individual who is committing crimes. Anyone who opposes or fears this law is an individual who cares more about a criminal and criminal acts rather than law and order.”
The NAACP said that everyone who attended on Monday was white and accused them of being racist.
“Today is a sad day for Florida. The Governor signed H.B. 1 into law. The bill is racist, discriminatory, unwise, unlawful, and unjust. The Governor put his stamp on this discriminatory law filled with criminalization and civil rights disenfranchisement aimed at Black and Brown Floridians. We won’t sit silently on this issue and we won’t let this stop peaceful protests across the state of Florida,” said Adora Obi Nweze, President of NAACP Florida State Conference and member of the National Board of Directors.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida also said that the legislation criminalizes Floridians exercising their First Amendment rights.
The ACLU said there is a difference between rioting and protesting, but the bill is too broad and clearly open to interpretation.
“You can tell that not even law enforcement read the bill. All they saw is that it gives them more power.”
“It is dangerous,” said a spokesperson for the ACLU. Like Fried, the ACLU says there is plenty of public opinion from non-experts, but no one has actually read the bill.
Mikah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said, “Economists have warned that the bill will cost taxpayers millions of dollars, creating new jail beds in a mass incarceration system that is already over-bloated and on the brink of collapse.”
Even more dangerous and costly they say, is Senate Bill 90, which is a controversial elections overhaul that allows for Tallahassee to override budget cuts on the local level.
In other words, if an agency were to use funds to hire someone actually trained in dealing with mental health calls instead of using funds to hire new officers, Tallahassee could step in and overrule the decision following a hearing.
Representatives say that Senate Bill 90 is also a blow to taxpayers who fund public servants.
Additionally, SB 90, sponsored by Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley, would ban drop boxes, require all voters to request vote-by-mail ballots more frequently, and allow only immediate family members to drop off vote-by-mail ballots. It will also remove every Florida voter who has an active request for a vote-by-mail ballot once it goes into effect.
Alan Hays, the Lake County Supervisor of Elections and a Republican, said, “Senate Bill 90 will cost the taxpayers of Florida somewhere between $12 and $16 million, and so that itself is enough to get your attention and say, whoa, we better rethink this.”
Florida Supervisor of Elections is also against the bill.
Dozens of civil rights organizations have already said they are seeking to have the new laws blocked by courts on constitutional grounds.