Republican Florida State Senator Jason Brodeur put forth a bill that would require bloggers to register with state offices before they write about elected state officials, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich thinks it’s an “embarrassment” that needs to be withdrawn with quickness.
SB 1316 on “Information Dissemination” states: “If a blogger posts to a blog about an elected state officer and receives, or will receive, compensation for that post, the blogger must register with the appropriate office within 5 days after the first post by the blogger which mentions an elected state officer.”
An “elected state officer,” Brodeur writes, “means the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, a Cabinet officer, or any member of the Legislature.”
Writers would need to put free speech on pause to register with the Office of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics.
What’s more, “If the compensation is for a series of blog posts or for a defined period of time, the blogger must disclose the total amount to be received upon the first blog post being published. Thereafter, the blogger must disclose the date or dates additional compensation is received, if any, for the series of blog posts.”
The writer must also provide a link to the website on which the blog was published along with the date that it went live. Failure to do so would result in a $25 fine, per day, per report.
In other words, bloggers in Florida would be treated like lobbyists.
“Each house of the Legislature and the Commission on Ethics shall adopt by rule, for application to bloggers, the same procedure by which lobbyists are notified of the failure to timely file a report and the amount of the assessed fines,” the bill reads.
“The idea that bloggers criticizing a politician should register with the government is insane,” Gingrich fumed on Twitter on Sunday. “[I]t is an embarrassment that it is a Republican state legislator in Florida who introduced a bill to that effect. He should withdraw it immediately.”
The idea that bloggers criticizing a politician should register with the government is insane. it is an embarrassment that it is a Republican state legislator in Florida who introduced a bill to that effect. He should withdraw it immediately.
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) March 5, 2023
But Brodeur defended his bill, telling Florida Politics that bloggers are “professional electioneers.”
“Paid bloggers are lobbyists who write instead of talk,” he argued. “They both are professional electioneers. If lobbyists have to register and report, why shouldn’t paid bloggers?”
Attorney Jonah Dickstein, a member of the First Amendment Lawyers Association, said the effects of such a proposal would be “chilling.”
“For citizen journalists or smaller organizations, it has more than a chilling effect,” he told The Epoch Times. “It absolutely has the risk of being used by authorities to shut them out completely from journalistic activity.”
Dickstein said the bill attempts “to find solutions to a real problem,” but adds, “I think there may already be laws that could be better used to deal with some of these situations.”
The mere introduction of such an Orwellian-sounding measure is already spawning attacks on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
“Governor Ron DeSantis doesn’t care about your First Amendment rights or your freedoms,” stated one Twitter user, who claimed, “DeSantis is copying Vladimir Putin!”
Governor Ron DeSantis doesn't care about your First Amendment rights or your freedoms. A new Florida bill would force bloggers who write about fascist Governor DeSantis, his Cabinet, or Republican state legislators to register with the state. DeSantis is copying Vladimir Putin! pic.twitter.com/jZ4BNX8Ds2
— Tony – Resistance (@TonyHussein4) March 5, 2023
DeSantis’s press secretary, Bryan Griffin, told The Epoch Times that this is just one of the more than 3,000 bills that are filed in Florida every year, and it hasn’t yet even made it out of the legislature.
“As usual,” Griffin said, “the governor will consider the merits of a bill in final form—if, and when, it passes the legislature.”
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