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Florida House approves HB 1, 'anti-riot' bill

Bill moves on to Senate before reaching Gov. DeSantis
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Posted at 3:30 PM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 15:39:19-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Florida House Bill, HB 1, or The Combating Public Disorder Act, cleared the House session Friday afternoon.

The Combating Public Disorder act passed with 76 Yeas, 39 Nays.

The bill was spearheaded by Governor Ron DeSantis following the Black Lives Matter protests last year and doubled down following the U.S. Capitol riot in January.

Opponents argued the bill was an attack on First Amendment rights. Supporters argued it will protect law enforcement and prevent public disorder seen at the U.S. Capitol and across the country last year.

Democrats tried for hours Thursday afternoon to water down the proposal with several amendments. The GOP-controlled chamber adopted none of them.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin, R-Miami, was able to add in a provision protecting historical places from rioters.

For months, opponents have railed against HB 1, fearing its language and definition of a riot is too broad. Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren warned it would have a chilling effect on the First Amendment.

"Under this definition, if you have a large group of people where only three of them do something bad, everybody else there is participating in a riot," Warren said. "This bill creates a potential for widespread abuse. We know that abuse in the criminal justice system has historically disproportionately hurt minorities."

Senators need to approve the bill before it can reach the governor's desk.