Common Cause Urges Florida Senators to Vote Against Anti-Protest Bill

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Today, the Florida Senate is scheduled to vote on House Bill 1, which would: create new criminal penalties for protesting; shield those who kill or injure people engaged in protesting; allow the Governor and his cabinet to alter municipal budgets; and open municipalities up to lawsuits for unlimited damages after protests. The bill was first proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last fall, during Black Lives Matter protests about police brutality and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the many lives lost before them.

The Florida House passed the bill on March 26, 2021.

Read April 8, 2021 full statement by Keshia Morris Desir, Mass Incarceration Project Manager for Common Cause here.

 

Statement of Keshia Morris Desir, Mass Incarceration Project Manager for Common Cause

Florida is poised to make history – and not in a good way.  

Today, the Senate will vote on a bill that will stifle free speech. It will undermine Floridians’ First Amendment right to assemble and ‘petition the Government for a redress of grievances’ – while providing special protections for monuments, memorials and historical markers.

The same bill also preempts municipalities’ ability to control their own budgets, and saddles Florida taxpayers with millions of dollars of unnecessary government spending.

It may be popular with some Florida politicians, but Common Cause Florida members are firmly opposed to it.

More than 5,000 of our members have contacted their elected officials to urge them to vote against the bill.

Our members believe that giving state officials veto power over municipal budgets is state overreach. Municipal governments should be able to control their own budgets, and not have those budgets second-guessed by Tallahassee politicians.

Our members are also extremely concerned that the bill will give Gov. DeSantis and his allies the power to shut down any speech they disagree with.

In the rush to pass this bill, the Florida Legislature does not seem to be considering its long-term costs.

The financial costs are at least partly quantifiable: one analysis calculated that increased incarceration, attributable to the bill, will cost taxpayers $6.6 – $17.5 million per year.

But the bill will also increase municipalities’ insurance costs, by an unknown amount, because it will encourage civil lawsuits seeking unlimited damages.

It will cut sales tax and property tax revenues, by an unknown amount, while increasing the need for public assistance. Increased incarceration has long-term economic and family impacts – and the Florida Legislature has not considered those costs for this bill.

But the biggest long-term cost will be to Floridians’ ability to participate in a free and fair democracy through protest.

There are already laws on the books with penalties for violence and vandalism. This bill is not needed to address those.

The purpose of this bill is clear — to block communities from creating power.

Senators’ vote on this bill, today, will show whether they support their Black and brown constituents – or whether they’re willing to silence those voices who still must petition to be heard in our democracy.