TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Senate is using some creative procedural maneuvering to resurrect the controversial “anti-riot” bill and the move is drawing criticism from Republicans and Democrats.
The stage for the move was set a week before the announcement was made.
In late March, the Senate Rules Committee made an uncommon maneuver, taking up a House version of a non-controversial bill that had been stuck in a lower Senate committee.
A Republican and Democratic lawmaker expressed concerns at the time.
“I want to ensure that we don’t establish a precedent with this bill,” said State Sen. Jeff Brandes.
“I really hope we don’t do this with the anti-protest bill,” said State Sen. Gary Farmer.
A week later, a similar move was announced for the controversial anti-rioting legislation. The bill will now only be heard by a single Senate committee before reaching the floor.
Senate President Wilton Simpson defended his decision.
“About half the Senate is in the budget committee, so I just think that’s the appropriate place to send it to so that it can be fairly vetted before it comes to the floor,” said Simpson.
But Patrica Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, believes sidestepping the process on a bill that could have First Amendment implications is dangerous.
“It absolutely does deserve full vetting and when it eventually goes to court, which I’m sure it will if it’s passed, I think that’s one of the things that should be pointed out. This bill was not fully vetted by our legislative process,” said Brigham.
Democratic Representative Evan Jenne is holding out hope the Senate won’t act as a rubber stamp.
“That the Senate does the right thing and that this bill is put down for the whole of session,” said Jenne.
The legislation is expected to come up for its one and only Senate committee hearing Friday.
If senators ultimately pass the bill off the chamber floor without amendments, it will head straight to the governor’s desk.
A request for comment from the Senate sponsor of the Combating Public Disorder Act was not immediately returned.