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Tallahassee City Commission votes to join legal challenge against anti-riot legislation

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 6:55 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The City of Tallahassee Commission has unanimously voted to join a legal challenge against one of the most controversial bills of Florida’s last session, taking on the Anti-Riot Bill.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB1 into law last April.

Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox is hoping the decision could spur other municipalities to get involved.

“The City of Tallahassee being the capital of the state of Florida, we are accustomed to leading,” Williams-Cox said.

In addition to adding a new felony to the definition of a riot and increasing penalties for crimes during a riot, the new legislation can affect local governments’ budgets. It allows challenges of any reduction of a local police budget, and it gives the Governor and his Cabinet the final say.

Local leaders are concerned about what they call a lack of control over the City budget.

“I think every municipality, every county, every school district should have the right of self governance. In fact, home rule authority is in the Florida Constitution,” Mayor John Dailey said.

Proponents of the new legislation say it protects people who are not involved in protests safe during them, but opponents say it harms free speech.

Multiple public speakers spoke in favor of the City joining the lawsuit during Wednesday’s meeting.

“As Florida’s Capital City, Tallahassee has a particularly important role in joining this lawsuit,” said one public speaker.

“We need you to protect our First Amendment freedom of speech rights,” said Trish Brown, a member of TCAC.

The legal challenge will be filed by attorneys with the Public Rights Project, the Community Justice Project, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, pro bono on the City’s behalf. That means there is no immediate fiscal impact to joining the challenge.

Attorneys for the non-profits told Commissioners challenging the entire law will be a stronger case than challenging a single decision on a budget made by the Governor down the line.

As of October 13th, the lawsuit involves eight municipalities, including Gainesville, Miramar, and Wilton Manors.

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