Legislative (2024 Session) and Marsy’s Law Update

Legislative (2024 Session) and Marsy’s Law Update

The Regular Session begins January 9.  Interim committees have been meeting over the last couple of months and bills are being filed and heard in committee. Here are some of the bills we have been following:

Defamation (HB 757 by Rep. Andrade, R. Pensacola)
This is a scaled down version of last year’s bill. It changes the venue provisions, again raises a presumption of actual malice if an anonymous source is involved and the plaintiff can prove falsity and attempts to create a false light claim related to the use of artificial intelligence. STATUS: Currently, no committees have been assigned, and no companion bill filed. Various media groups are following the bill.

Self-Storage Unit Notice (HB 283 by Rep. Borrero, R. Doral; SB 456 by Sen Harrell, R. Stuart)
Allows notice of self-storage unit liens on “a public website that customarily conducts or advertises personal property auctions.” STATUS: Each bill has been referred to 3 committees, the first being the Civil Justice Subcommittee in the House and the Judiciary Committee in the Senate.

Wrecker/Towing Company Lien Notice (HB 661 by Rep. Caruso, R. West Palm Beach); SB 332 by Sen. Burgess, R.  Zephyrhills)
Ends newspaper notice regarding wrecker lien foreclosures and allows notification on a Dept. of Highway Safety designated “central database or online format.” STATUS: Each bill has been assigned to 3 committees, the first being the Transportation and Modals Subcommittee for the House bill and the Transportation Committee for the Senate bill.

School Board SB 7002 (by Senate Ed. Pre-k-12 Committee)
The bill contains language that allows school board notices relating to budgets and millage to be placed on the county optional website established under the 2022 law or even just the district website as opposed to newspapers. Further, notices of regular and special meetings of the district school board may be placed on the optional county website and would no longer be in the newspaper. STATUS: Met with committee staff which resulted in an amendment allowing newspaper notice as an option for meeting notification. Amended bill passed Fiscal Policy Committee and is now on floor calendar.

Marsy’s Law
Recently, the Florida Supreme Court issued its opinion in the City of Tallahassee police identity case finding that Marsy’s Law does not protect identification of victims’ names in general.  The opinion is the best development yet since enactment of ML’s language about protecting victim names.

This is a summary from Mark Caramanica with the Thomas, LoCicero firm who has been representing the media coalition before the Court:

The Court takes a straightforward textual approach and makes a clear distinction between victim identities and location/harassment information to conclude that no ML victim can hide their mere identity under the law.  The court also found it illogical when considering the confrontation clause and having to read the law consistent with our constitutional right to public records (noting that when identities are protected in the law they are done so explicitly).

For those writing about the case we have the following comment: “Today’s decision is a win for government transparency.  The Court applied a common sense approach to interpreting Marsy’s Law that reins in overzealous applications that hide newsworthy information from the public.  In this case, the issues could not have been weightier and the Court’s ruling prevents police officers from shielding their names when on-duty shootings occur.

In the wake of the decision, we will also be monitoring any legislative activity that might arise regarding issues relating to victim identities.