TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A bill filed that would require bloggers who profit off of their work while covering Florida’s elected officials is drawing criticism from across the political aisle, including from prominent Republicans.
Florida Sen. Jason Brodeur (R-Lake Mary) recently introduced a bill that would require bloggers to register with state offices if they make any profit from their posts about elected officials in the state.
Senate Bill 1316 states that writers who produce “an article, a story, or a series of stories,” would have to register with Florida Office of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics. To qualify, they’d have to be writing about the governor, the attorney general and any other elected cabinet member, as well as Florida senators and representatives.
Those who fail to register with the state within five days of a post, which is not fully defined in the proposal, would face fines ranging from $25 to $2,500 per post, per day that registration is not completed, in addition to a monthly reporting requirement on their content, who pays them, and how much is earned.
When asked about the proposal after Tuesday’s State of the State address, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he doesn’t “control every single bill that has been filed or amended.”
After the bill was filed, prominent Republican figure Newt Gingrich, a former U.S. House Speaker, spoke out against the bill, releasing a statement on Twitter saying it was embarrassing.
“The idea that bloggers criticizing a politician should register with the government is insane. it is an embarrassment that it is a Republican state legislator in Florida who introduced a bill to that effect. He should withdraw it immediately,” Gingrich tweeted.
Brodeur has said was akin to the same thing as lobbyist registration, also via Twitter, saying the bill “brings the current pay-to-play scheme to light and gives voters clarity as to who is influencing their elected officials, JUST LIKE how we treat lobbyists. It’s an electioneering issue, not a free speech issue,” speaking by video with a Florida-based news outlet.
Critics of the bill say it is just another part of Florida’s “ongoing fight with the First Amendment.”
In a statement on SB 1316, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression said if the bill was enacted, anyone writing online besides at an official newspaper would have to register, calling it “an affront to the First Amendment and our national commitment to freedom of the press.”
Continuing, FIRE said, “The First Amendment protects not only a free press, but the right to speak anonymously — a cherished tradition from America’s earliest days, when anonymous pamphleteers played a crucial role in the founding of our constitutional republic. Today, our nation’s protection of anonymous speech is the hope of dissidents worldwide. Yet SB1316 would compel Americans who exercise their right to criticize a state’s highest officials to reveal themselves to the very government they criticize.”
Speaking with Florida Politics, Brodeur said his bill is targeted at “pay-to-play” bloggers.
“Paid bloggers are lobbyists who write instead of talk. They both are professional electioneers. If lobbyists have to register and report, why shouldn’t paid bloggers?” Brodeur told Florida Politics on March 1.
The commentary, while focused on SB 1316, is also highlights a separate bill proposed for the March legislative session aimed at curtailing protections for reporters and media companies that use anonymous sources, said to be used by “legacy media” to unfairly target conservatives and, at least according to DeSantis, “increasingly divorce themselves from the truth and instead try to elevate preferred narratives and partisan activism over reporting the facts.”
Brodeur is also a Florida Senate sponsor for the defamation bill, SB 1220.