Gov. Ron DeSatis mused Tuesday that lawmakers could put his proposed legislation cracking down on violent protests on an expedited path by November.
The Governor told reporters that, when meeting with legislative leaders to announce the bill Monday, he floated the idea of pushing forward with the proposal during pre-Session meetings.
“You guys are going to be here for the Organizational Session,” DeSantis said. “It’s going to have broad support, certainly from the Republican caucuses in both chambers. It may be something we need to act.”
The Organizational Session is scheduled 14 days after the General Election, slating the Session for a mid-November start, and is dedicated to organizing and selecting officers. Under usual circumstances, lawmakers would not pass legislation until Session begins in full in March.
However, the Governor added that he was not speaking on behalf of incoming Senate President Wilton Simpson or incoming House Speaker Chris Sprowls.
In a subsequent statement to Florida Politics, Sprowls said the Legislature could take up the plan in a Special Session.
“If the newly elected legislature holds a Special Session, the Governor’s plan to protect people, neighborhoods and businesses from lawlessness would absolutely be a priority.”
The “Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act” is DeSantis’ law and order response to the rise in protests that followed George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. Protests have been mostly peaceful demonstrations, but they have brought violent or lawless actions as well.
“I look at these police, and they just stand out there, and they just have to take getting hit with all these things, and I’m saying, you know what, if people do that, they go to jail,” the Governor said. “That’s going to stop very soon.”
The proposal includes a provision that local governments that slash law enforcement budgets would be barred from receiving state grants or aid, a measure against the “Defund the Police” movement. Another provision would strip municipalities of sovereign immunity if local leaders order police to stand down or otherwise neglect their duty to protect.
“You pay taxes to have this type of protection if your business gets burned down or you get injured in some way,” DeSantis said. “I think that’s a big, big problem.”
Lakey Love, with the pro-Black Lives Matter Tallahassee Community Action Committee, said the proposed legislation would create a police state. That claim drew a laughing dismissal from the Governor.
“Do you think it’s OK to throw a brick at a police officer? Do you think it’s OK to burn down buildings?” DeSantis asked.
The Governor also wants lawmakers to take up liability protection legislation because the federal government has so far failed to provide assistance beyond aid to states in the CARES Act. Republicans have as of yet received their side of the “grand bargain” after Democrats secured the monetary aid, he said.
“If you just have a store and someone — you cannot be held liable. First of all, how would you even prove someone was — so we’ve never done that I don’t think with any other type of virus where you can be sued, so there’s a lot of concern about liability,” DeSantis said. “I think it holds the economy back.”
If Washington provides more unemployment assistance, the Governor said Florida should extend the enhanced unemployment benefits, as Democrats in Florida have requested. However, no state has had the resources to extend unemployment even by using CARES Act cash, he added, noting that $300 per jobless person adds up quickly.
“They’re wanting to spend money that we really need to get from the federal government,” DeSantis said. “If the federal government does it, we’re happy to move on it and do it, but that’s really been the best pathway, and I don’t know if they’re going to do a phase four before the election.”