Sunday, April 02, 2023

Florida Senator Wants Bloggers That Mention Florida Legislators To Register With The State Or Face Fines

One definition of “Idea” is, “A formulated thought or opinion.” There are all types of ideas. For example, most are said to be good, bad, clever, unique, brilliant and in some cases stupid.

Florida Senator Jason Brodeur recently had an idea. Unfortunately, it was uniquely bad and flat out stupid. Ideas are precursors to action and in this case rather than keep his bad idea to himself Brodeur took action and wrote:

 Senate Bill 1316: Information Dissemination, would require any blogger writing about government officials to register with the Florida Office of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics.

It should be noted that Brodeur both wrote and sponsored the bill, so it’s questionable how much support it will get. Frankly, every other member of the Florida legislator should run, not walk away from this delusional disaster.

Brodeur wrote, that those who write “an article, a story, or a series of stories, about the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, a Cabinet officer, or any member of the Legislature, and receives or will receive payment for doing so, must register with state offices within five days after the publication of an article that mentions an elected state official.”

If another blog post is added to a blog, the blogger would then be required to submit monthly reports on the 10th of each month with the appropriate state office. They would not have to submit a report on months when no content is published.

For blog posts that “concern an elected member of the legislature” or “an officer of the executive branch,” monthly reports must disclose the amount of compensation received for the coverage, rounded to the nearest $10 value.

Failure to file these disclosures or register with state officials, if the bill passes, would lead to daily fines for the bloggers, with a maximum amount per report, not per writer, of $2,500. The per-day fine is $25 per report for each day it’s late.

The bill also requires that bloggers file notices of failure to file a timely report the same way that lobbyists file their disclosures and reports on assessed fines. Fines must be paid within 30 days of payment notice, unless an appeal is filed with the appropriate office. Fine payments must be deposited into the Legislative Lobbyist Registration Trust Fund if it concerns an elected member of the legislature.

Explicitly, the blogger rule would not apply to newspapers or similar publications, under Brodeur’s proposed legislation. Should the bill pass, it would take effect immediately upon approval.

Brodeur is on a very slippery slope here. Even if the bill isn’t passed, and I strongly believe that it has no chance, it sends a message that Brodeur is intimidated by the written word and free speech.

The first amendment of the Florida Constitution reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Some ideas are better kept to yourself. This brainchild of Jason Brodeur definitely falls into that category.