A new Florida state bill sponsored by a Republican member of the legislature has alarmed free speech advocates for proposing that independent bloggers writing about Florida government officials, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., have to register with the state government or pay a fine.
According to Free speech watchdog, Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), and other concerned citizens, Senate Bill 1316, introduced by Florida state Senator Jason Brodeur, R-Lake Mary, is “unconstitutional,” and “fundamentally un-American” for what it requires of independent bloggers who are writing on Florida government officials.
According to local reporting, SB 1316 “would require any blogger writing about government officials to register with the Florida Office of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics.”
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The text of the bill, which was filed in the state senate on February 28, seems to confirm this account. It stipulates, “If a blogger posts to a blog about an elected state officer and receives, or will receive, compensation for that post, the blogger must register with the appropriate office, as identified in paragraph (1)(f), within 5 days after the first post by the blogger which mentions an elected state officer.”
It defined the appropriate offices as, “in the context of a blog post about a member of the Legislature, the Office of Legislative Services or, in the context of a blog post about a member of the executive branch, the Commission on Ethics, as applicable.”
In addition, the bill stated that the elected officials covered in these blogs include “the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, a Cabinet officer, or any member of the Legislature.”
The bloggers covering said officials “must file monthly reports on the 10th day following the end of each calendar month from the time a blog post is added to the blog.” These reports must include who “compensated the blogger” and how much the blogger was compensated per blog, “rounded to the nearest $10 increment.”
Failure for the bloggers to file these reports will be fined “$25 per day per report for each day late, not 209 to exceed $2,500 per report.” The bill noted that bloggers can appeal their fines, though if they are not waived or paid “in excess of 100 days after final determination,” the courts will enforce them.
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It is worth noting that the bill defined a “blog” as “a website or webpage that hosts any blogger and is frequently updated with opinion, commentary, or business content. The term does not include the website of a newspaper or other similar publication.”
FIRE trashed Brodeur’s bill, calling it “an affront to the First Amendment and our national commitment to freedom of the press. It is difficult to imagine a legislative proposal more fundamentally at odds with our nation’s founding spirit than requiring citizens and journalists to register their publications with the government under pain of fines.”
The watchdog’s statement concluded with a condemnation of the bill in the strongest of terms, stating “SB 1316 is not just unconstitutional. It is fundamentally un-American. It must be soundly rejected, and lawmakers should stop introducing such flagrantly unconstitutional bills.”
Other commentators on Twitter slammed the bill. Popular conservative account @amuse warned Brodeur on Twitter the proposed legislation will paint Florida GOP in a bad light. He tweeted, “FYI @jasonbrodeur the media is about to rip you a new one as they report on SB 1316. They’re reporting you want ‘bloggers’ to register with the state. What is your intent? Do out-of-state ‘bloggers’ need to register too?”
Sharing a link to a news report on the bill, the account added, “FWIW here is the sort of story your SB 1316 is generating (not helping @GovRonDeSantis): ‘Florida bill would require bloggers who write about governor to register with the state.’”
Mediaite contributing editor Sarah Rumpf shared a picture of the U.S. Constitution to Twitter, commenting, “Here’s my documentation needed to write about DeSantis, Moody, Brodeur, or any other elected official. I’m not filing any ‘registration’ or reporting my salary to Tallahassee. Go step on all the Legos with this unconstitutional nonsense.”
Sharing their story on the subject, the National Review Twitter account said, “An idiot in the Florida state legislature has introduced a bill that would require the registration of bloggers who are critical of the state’s government.”
In the piece, writer Charles C.W. Cooke declared: “The bill is an unconstitutional, moronic disgrace, and the guy who wrote it, Senator Jason Brodeur of Seminole County, is an embarrassment to the GOP.”
Noting that the only supporter of the bill was Brodeur, Cooke added, “Brodeur wrote the bill. Brodeur sponsored the bill. And that’s as far as it’s got. It’s not going to pass. It’s not going to be signed. It’s not even going to be considered.”
Fox News Digital reached out to DeSantis and Brodeur’s offices to confirm the contents of the bill and local reports, though has yet to receive responses from either.