The Florida House passed divisive anti-riot legislation on Friday aimed at cracking down on violent protests.
The bill (HB 1), ‘Combatting Public Disorder,’ passed by a party-line vote of 76-39. The measure would create new crimes for protests that turn violent and would impose enhanced penalties for assault and inciting a riot. The legislation would also make it more difficult for local governments to slash police funding.
A top legislative priority for Governor Ron DeSantis and GOP officials, the proposal is in response to the lawlessness that permeated throughout major cities across the country last summer after criminal mobs hijacked peaceful demonstrations and destroyed buildings and businesses.
The damages from riots last year are estimated to cost between $1-2 billion in claims, according to one report.
The Governor rolled out the framework for the law-and-order legislation last September following nationwide protests against systemic racism. The bill is just one component of DeSantis’s three-tiered legislative agenda focused on protecting Floridians from bad actors like violent mobs, Big Tech, and pandemic trial lawyers.
The measure is sponsored by State Representative Juan Fernandez-Barquin. He, along with House Speaker Chris Sprowls and their Republican colleagues, argue that the bill protects businesses from being looted or burned down, and will safeguard police officers who are called to maintain public order.
“If you break the law, you have to suffer the consequences,” Fernandez-Barquin said in his closing statement before the floor vote. “If not, what’s the purpose of having the laws?”
Democrats, however, say such legislation stifles peaceful protests, making it harder for citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights.
The Florida Senate has yet to hear the bill.
To view the full bill, click here.
This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.