TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — State lawmakers passed a controversial bill known as the "Combating Violence, Disorder, and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act" Friday afternoon in Florida's Capitol.
HB 1 has also become known as an "anti-rioting" bill.
The bill expands who can be charged as a felon during protests and gives law enforcement broader arresting powers. It also makes it harder for local governing bodies to “defund” the police.
Gov. Ron DeSantis first introduced this legislation last September at a news conference with law enforcement officers from around the state. He says state law needs to be tougher when it comes to violent protestors and those who would consider defunding the police.
Lawmakers and state leaders who oppose the bill say the proposed legislation would undermine first amendment freedoms by criminalizing peaceful protests.
Rep. Ben Diamond (D - St. Petersburg) spoke in opposition of the bill Friday saying, "Our law enforcement realize they have the tools they need to keep us safe. I spoke with my police chief about this bill and that’s what he told me. He’s concerned as am I that this bill does muddy the waters in a very real way that will allow peaceful protesters to get swept up in arrests."
Republicans who support the bill say the language is clear and does not violate the first amendment.
"Throwing a brick threw a window of a small business if not free speech. It’s a crime. Hitting a police officer with a glass bottle is not free speech. It’s a crime," said Rep. Tyler Sirois (R - Merritt Island).
After more than five hours of passionate debate, the bill passed Friday 76-39.
The future of this legislation is still uncertain as the Senate still needs to pass a similar bill before it reaches the governor's desk.
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