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

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

The Regular Session began January 9 and ends March 8. 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 bills change the venue provisions, again raise 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. They include take-down requirements for publishers to limit actual damages and entitlement to the fair reporting privilege, and a pre-trial “veracity hearing.” STATUS: The Senate bills originally were assigned to 3 committees. Recently, SB 1780 was aligned with the House bill, passed its first stop, and now has been fast tracked to just 1 more committee. The House bill, assigned to 3 committees, has passed its first 2 committees.
Various media groups are following the bill. See attached summary. These troubling bills, if passed, will likely increase litigation in a state that already sees more than its fair share of libel litigation.

Self-Storage Units (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 its first 2 committees on a party line vote. Senate bill passed its first committee 8-2 on 1/29.

Wrecker/Towing Company Lien Notice (HB 179 by Rep. Bell, R. Fort Meade; SB 332 by Sen. Burgess, R. Zephyrhills)

Ends newspaper notice regarding wrecker lien foreclosures and allows notification on a “publicly available website maintained by an approved third-party service.” STATUS: Each bill has been assigned to 3 committees. The House bill passed its first 2 committees, and the Senate bill passed its first committee. Recently, the HB 179 language appeared in the below bill, SB 774.

Towing and Storage (SB 774 by Sen. Perry, R. Gainesville)

The bill originally consolidated changes to the self-storage and towing lien provisions but did not contain the bad language deleting newspaper notice. STATUS: assigned 3 committees and passed its first committee. Recently, the bill passed its second committee with an amendment deleting the self-storage language and aligning the towing portion, including removal of newspaper notice, with HB 179, above.

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 allows school board notices relating to budgets and millage to be placed on the county optional website established under the 2022 law or just the district website as opposed to newspapers. Further, the bill originally allowed notices of regular and special meetings of the district school board to be placed only on the county website and not 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. House bill to be amended to track Senate bill.

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 note that LEOs can qualify as crime victims even in cases of on-duty shootings. STATUS: House bills assigned to 3 committees but no hearing yet. No Senate companion. Marsy’s Law of Florida recently released a statement that they do not support secrecy of on-duty law enforcement officer identities for those who use physical force.