TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida bill cracking down on social unrest now awaits the governor’s signature to become law.
HB 1, nicknamed the “Anti-Riot Bill” by Florida Republicans, passed the Senate on Thursday evening. The bill includes many of the measures introduced by Gov. Ron DeSantis after last summer’s protests in his Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act.
The bill is expansive, covering 61 pages and making several changes to Florida criminal and administrative law:
- Makes it more difficult for cities and counties to reduce funding for law enforcement, allowing local elected officials to challenge those budget decisions, and giving the state power to approve or amend the local budget
- Allows those local governments to be sued if they fail to stop a riot
- Defines “riot” as a violent public disturbance involving 3 or more people acting with common intent resulting in injury to others, damage to property, or the imminent danger of injury or damage
- Enhances penalties for people who commit crimes during a riot
- Creates a new second-degree felony called an “aggravated riot,” which occurs when the riot has more than 25 participants, causes great bodily harm or more than $5,000 in property damage, uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon, or blocks roadways by force or threat of force
Florida Sen. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills), who sponsored the legislation, said he felt this framework was needed to draw a distinction between peaceful and violent behavior.
“Not only did we do that to put the public on notice as to what constitutes a riot, but also to make it clear to both protester and law enforcement where that line in the law is drawn,” said Burgess.
“Who will be the person to say when an actual riot is happening?” asked Fla. Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-Broward/Miami-Dade). “That question has still not been answered.”
DeSantis is expected to sign the bill any day; it will become law immediately upon his signature.
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