TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The governor’s top legislative priority, a bill increasing penalties for violent protestors, could be in trouble because of a lack of support from law enforcement.
Three dozen people opposing tougher penalties for protestors who cross the line into violence were at the Capitol on Thursday to make their feelings known about the legislation backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“DeSantis’s anti-protest bill attempts threatens us into submission with ridiculous prison sentences,” Jalen Blocker, a student at Florida State University, said. “That’s what I call fear.”
Inside the building, the legislation has stalled. With the legislative session a third of the way in, the governor’s top priority has yet to get a hearing in the Florida Senate.
State Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Miami, who chairs the criminal justice committee, won’t talk about it
“Stuff on my committee, I don’t comment,” Pizzo said.
Gov. DeSantis laughed when asked if he was worried about the fate of the bill.
“Are we going to be prepared to respond appropriately and protect our people? And I think the House believes that we will. I think the majority fo the Senate believe that,” DeSantis said.
State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who serves as vice chair under Pizzo, isn’t so sure.
“I just don’t know they have the votes on that committee,” said Brandes. “They are either going to pare the bill down to something that is acceptable and they can get the votes for, or it will continue to be reviewed.”
DeSantis was asked if he would let lawmakers go home without passing the legislation this session. He wasn’t fazed.
“Oh, I don’t think that’s going to be an issue,” he said. “I think they know they are going to have to do it. So, it’s not a question if I let them go home. What would their voters do if they went home without doing it? I know our voters would be very upset.”
Every session ends with the most important bills being horse traded. For the governor, the question is how much political capital he’s willing to spend.
The Democratic Caucus in the Florida House voted Thursday to oppose the House version of the bill, meaning all 42 Democrats will likely vote against it. There are 78 Republican members of the House.