‘Insane’ Anti Free Speech ‘Blogger Bill’ at Death’s Door as Co-Sponsor Deadline Looms

An “insane” bill requiring Florida political bloggers to register with the state is facing the chopping block as a crucial sponsor deadline looms. The bill would require online writers to notify the state of any posts mentioning an executive or legislative branch member by name or face heavy fines. The bill was filed last week by Sen. Jason Brodeur (R-Lake Mary). If Brodeur cannot find a co-sponsor by 12:00pm today, the bill will be dead on arrival.

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Both sides of the aisle have slammed Brodeur’s proposal. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) blasted the bill on Monday.

“The idea that bloggers criticizing a politician should register with the government is insane,” Gingrich tweeted. “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.”

Brodeur’s bill has taken heavy fire, with First Amendment groups arguing that it suppresses free speech and threatens freedom of the press. If passed, any Florida blogger who receives compensation for their posts would be required to file monthly earnings reports with the Office of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics. If they fail to do so, they could be fined $25 for each day the report is late, up to a maximum of $2,500 per report.

“It’s hard to imagine a proposal that would be more violative of the First Amendment,” Ron Kuby, a New York-based civil rights attorney, told NBC News last week. “We don’t register journalists. People who write cannot be forced to register.”

But Brodeur says that forcing journalists to register with the state isn’t about the First Amendment at all. Instead, he claims he is just trying to hold bloggers accountable for their “pay-to-play scheme.”

“Paid bloggers are lobbyists who write instead of talk,” Brodeur said in a Wednesday interview with Florida Politics. “They both are professional electioneers. If lobbyists have to register and report, why shouldn’t paid bloggers?”

He later doubled down on the comparison, publishing a video on Sunday where he claimed to be the victim of a massive disinformation campaign.

“What we have out there today is a system by which somebody can pay someone to write a story, publish it online and then use that in a mail piece as a site source when they’re making claims about an opponent,” he said in the video. “[Voters] have a right to know when somebody is being paid to advocate like a lobbyist.”

Brodeur’s colleagues appear to disagree. In the week since the bill was filed, the Lake Mary senator has been dragged by his own party and left unable to find a cosponsor. If no Florida House member co-sponsors the bill by Tuesday at noon, the bill will be dead on arrival.

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The Florida legislative session begins Tuesday, March 7. While Brodeur’s bill has not received a cosponsor, it was referred to several committees on Monday. If it were to become law, it would take effect immediately.

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