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Florida House committee passes Gov. DeSantis' protest bill in first legislative stop

Posted at 6:28 PM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 18:30:40-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Late Wednesday afternoon, Governor DeSantis' protest bill, HB 1, was passed by the House Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee, marking its first stop in the legislative process.

The bill passed 11 to 6, along party lines.

There has been some fiery opposition in the House from activists calling it racist, designed, they allege, to target the BLM movement.

“In politics no matter what you do you’re always going to disappoint someone. This bill seems to actually be designed to do just that to the tune of the basic constitutional rights of every Floridian. Our job is to fix something that’s broken or improve something that can be better. This bill does not put food in anyone’s mouth, vaccines in people’s arms, or money in anyone’s pocket,” Democratic Ranking Member Representative Michael Grieco (D- Miami Beach)

The governor announced the idea last year at the height of the mostly nonviolent Black Lives Matter protests across the state and nation.

The more than 50-page policy has several provisions. It limits a city's ability to redirect funds from the police to social programs, makes it a felony to destroy "any memorial" in the state, and upgrades penalties for illegal actions during "riots" -- like assaulting another person.

At that time, he pushed to get approval before the new year in a mostly ceremonial organizing session, which brings lawmakers back to formally select leadership. It didn't happen.

Democrats have since railed on the policy as dangerous, worried it would discourage people of color from peacefully protesting.

Gov. DeSantis used the riots in Washington, D.C. to spur approval of his bill targeting violent demonstrations, saying rioting won't be tolerated in the Sunshine State.

The bill has been in the works for months but was officially filed in the Florida House and Senate only hours after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol Building.