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Florida House debates HB 1 amendments

Published: Mar. 25, 2021 at 4:24 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAP NEWS/WCJB) - The Florida House began debating controversial legislation cracking down on violent protests Thursday afternoon.

Democrats proposed five amendments in an effort to water down the legislation.

The burning of buildings in the Tampa Bay Area in June, windows smashed in the state’s capital and trouble elsewhere were the genesis of House Bill 1.

Its number is indicative of how important it is to leadership.

“It protects the businesses from the destruction of property. It protects police officers who are there protecting against violent protests,” said House Speaker Chris Sprowls.

Opponents claim the legislation will stifle peaceful protests.

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“That is totally and utterly false. There is not a line in this bill that would affect anyone who is peacefully protesting. Who it will effect, who it will affect, are people who are being violent,” said Sprowls.

As written, the driver of a red truck that ran through protesters in Tallahassee over the summer wouldn’t face charges or civil action if a convicted protester was hurt as he escaped after inadvertently ending up in the middle.

“It’s promoting vigilantism of the worst kind, and so, that’s what my amendment would do, it would remove that from the bill,” said Rep. Fentrice Driskell.

Driskell knew the amendments would all be voted down.

“You know, we have to continue to fight. We have to continue to raise the arguments and at least try to use this process to make a piece of legislation better,” said Driskell.

The House will take a final vote Friday, but the bill is in trouble in the Senate where it has yet to be heard.

At this point the Speaker is saying no deals.

“That is not a conversation they have had with me,” said Sprowls.

But the clock is ticking, and the Governor and Sprowls have been on National TV telling the nation they were going to pass the toughest law in the nation.

The Governor told us last week that he believed lawmakers would reach a deal on the legislation by the end of session.

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