Legislative (2024 Session; Week Two) and Marsy’s Law Update

Legislative (2024 Session; Week Two) and Marsy’s Law Update

The Regular Session began January 9. Here are some of the bills we have been following:

Defamation (HB 757 by Rep. Andrade, R. Pensacola; SB 1086 by Sen. Garcia, R. Miami; SB 1780 by Sen. Brodeur, R. Lake Mary)

These are scaled down versions of last year’s bill. The House bill 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. The Senate bill is similar but broader. STATUS: The Senate bills each have been assigned to 3 committees, but none have been heard yet. The House bill, assigned to 3 committees, will be heard in the first committee tomorrow. 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 House bill passed it first committee 13-5 on party line vote. Senate bill has not been heard yet.

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. The bills could be heard in committee Friday.

Towing and Storage (HB 179 by Rep. Bell, R. Fort Meade; SB 774 by Sen. Perry, R. Gainesville)

 These bills are similar consolidate changes to the self-storage and towing lien provisions but do not contain the bad language deleting newspaper notice—that language remains. STATUS: Both bills assigned 3 committees. The Senate bill passed the Transportation Committee unanimously. House bill in Transportation and Modals Subcommittee.

Deregulation of  Public Schools; School Board Notices (SB 7002 by Senate Ed. Pre-k-12 Committee; HB 7039 by Choice & Innovation Subcommittee)

The Senate bill originally contained 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. The related House bill contains bad language deleting all newspaper notices.  STATUS: Met with Senate committee staff which resulted in an amendment allowing newspaper notice as an option for meeting notification. Amended Senate bill passed committee and unanimously on Senate floor and is now in messages to House.

Marsy’s Law Fla. Supreme Court

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.

Crime Victim’s Rights HB 1605 Pub. Rec. 1607 by Rep. Brannan (R. Lake City)

As anticipated, House bills filed on the first day of Session seek to reverse the above positive Florida Supreme Court decision.  The bills would work in tandem to prevent the disclosure of the identity of any crime victim, and specifically note that LEOs can qualify as crime victims, going so far as to make clear that they qualify in cases of on-duty shootings. STATUS: House bills assigned to 3 committees; no Senate companions, yet. We and FAF will be following these bills closely.