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Senate send HB-1 to governor’s desk

Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 10:44 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - After nearly three hours of debate, the Florida Senate voted to send the controversial anti-rioting bill to the governor’s desk.

Debate rarely touched on the substance of HB-1, the controversial anti-rioting bill.

Instead, Senators shared their personal stories of protest and facing racism.

“I was born to protest and my heroes have been to jail,” said Senator Darryl Rouson.

The refrain from opponents: the legislation isn’t needed.

“There are laws already that would stop you, that would incarcerate you,” said Senator Victor Torres.

Supporters made the opposite case, arguing destruction seen in Florida and other parts of the country last year shows a potential vulnerability.

“The deaths that occurred during the protests, the fires that happened, the looting that happens,” said Senator Kelli Stargel.

In closing, sponsor Danny Burgess said he understood opponents’ concerns but believed the legislation wouldn’t result in unintended consequences for peaceful protestors.

“The only reference to peaceful protests in this bill protects it. What this bill does not protect is violence,” said Burgess.

The final vote was 23-17 with one Republican breaking ranks.

Following the vote, Democrats held a press conference.

Their message to protestors: ‘Don’t let this legislation silence you.’

“It’s time for the people to rise up even more,” said Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer.

Senate President Wilton Simpson fully expects legal challenges.

“But I don’t see any reason from a common-sense perspective that it wouldn’t hold up,” said Simpson.

As soon as the bill is signed into law, the changes will take effect.

Along with enhanced penalties for crimes committed during a riot, the bill allows state attorneys to appeal reductions in local police budgets, creates an affirmative defense from civil lawsuits for people who injure rioters in self-defense, and waives sovereign immunity for local governments, allowing businesses to sue for damages if their government doesn’t take action to stop a riot.

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