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Florida House Republicans vote to pass controversial ‘anti-rioting’ legislation

The bill passed along partisan lines.
House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R- Palm Harbor, looks at his notes during the house session on Opening Day of the Florida Legislature at the Capitol in Tallahassee on Tuesday, March 2, 2021.
House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R- Palm Harbor, looks at his notes during the house session on Opening Day of the Florida Legislature at the Capitol in Tallahassee on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Mar. 26
Updated Mar. 26

TALLAHASSEE — In a culmination of weeks of controversial debate, the Florida House on Friday passed House Bill 1, a broad anti-rioting legislation that is one of the top legislative priorities of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The bill passed 76-39 along party lines after weeks of vociferous opposition from social justice groups and hours of debate on the House floor that at times turned rancorous.

Before the House vote, Democrats argued the bill is unnecessary, and that it would be applied unevenly by officials to curtail the rights of citizens of color to peaceably assemble.

“Silencing Black communities is a part of our country’s history,” said Rep. Angie Nixon, D-Jacksonville. “HB 1 is an attempt for us to return to that being the foundation of our policy.”

Republicans contended the measure was needed to stop protests from turning into riots.

“We don’t need to have Miami, Orlando or Jacksonville become Kenosha or Seattle or Portland,” said Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach.

All eyes now turn to the Senate, where the fate of the measure is uncertain.

At one point, from the floor of the House, Rep. Omari Hardy, D-West Palm Beach, said he overheard Rep. Michelle Salzman, R-Pensacola, on Friday calling Webster Barnaby, R-Deltona, the chamber’s “token Black Republican.” (Barnaby, the only Black Republican in the House, spoke passionately in favor of HB 1 just before Hardy’s speech.)

Salzman, in an interview, vehemently denied making this remark.

“It’s an absolute lie,” Salzman said.

After Hardy’s accusation, House Speaker Chris Sprowls had to bring debate to a halt to remind members of House rules forbidding personal attacks.

Read more details about the bill in Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald’s recent story on HB 1 here.