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

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

The Regular Session began January 9 and ends March 8. Here’s the latest on the bills we are 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 bills. 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 were each assigned to 3 committees. SB 1780 was later aligned with the House bill, passed its first committee, and was then fast tracked to just 1 more committee. As of today, however, SB 1780 appears to have stalled and remains in the Fiscal Affairs Committee. The Senate spokesperson said this week that “When a bill is stuck in a Senate Committee, the Senate cannot take up the House Bill on the floor without waiving the rules.”

The House bill has moved further, passing its 3 assigned committees, and then moving to the floor calendar, where it remains.

Various media groups are following the bill. See attached summary and Myth v. Fact. These troubling bills, if passed (which looks increasingly unlikely), will likely add litigation in a state that already sees more than its fair share of libel litigation. See, https://floridaphoenix.com/2024/02/27/defamation-reforms-alarming-to-news-business-on-verge-of-failure-in-fl-legislature/

Self-Storage Units (HB 283 by Rep. Borrero, R. Doral; SB 456 by Sen. Harrell, R. Stuart)

Allows, in lieu of newspapers, 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.  Neither bill has moved recently.

Wrecker/Towing Company Lien Notice (HB 179 by Rep. Bell, R. Fort Meade; SB 332 by Sen. Burgess, R.  Zephyrhills; SB 774 by Sen. Perry, R. Gainesville))

These bills end newspaper notice regarding wrecker lien foreclosures and allow notification on a “publicly available website maintained by an approved third-party service.”  STATUS: The House bill passed its committees and the floor. The Senate bill by Sen. Burgess did not move but its language deleting newspaper notice was added to SB 774, by Sen. Perry, which is moving–it passed its committees and is now on the Senate floor calendar.

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 committees and Senate floor and is now in messages to House. The House bill passed its committees and went to floor where House replaced it with the Senate bill, and then passed the measure.

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 have not moved. 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.