Senate Bill 1316 is the latest entrant in Florida lawmakers’ ongoing fight with the First Amendment. If enacted, the legislation would require anyone other than a newspaper journalist who writes online about Florida’s government leaders — its governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet officer, or any member of the state legislature — to register with the state if they receive any “compensation” for the post. And they must do so within five days — and then file a monthly report with state regulators if they write about Florida officials that month. Those who violate the law risk up to $2,500 in fines per report.
This bill is an affront to the First Amendment and our national commitment to freedom of the press.
It is difficult to imagine a legislative proposal more fundamentally at odds with our nation’s founding spirit than requiring citizens and journalists to register their publications with the government under pain of fines. John Peter Zenger and James Madison must be rolling in their graves.
It is difficult to imagine a legislative proposal more fundamentally at odds with our nation’s founding spirit.
The First Amendment protects not only a free press, but the right to speak anonymously — a cherished tradition from America’s earliest days, when anonymous pamphleteers played a crucial role in the founding of our constitutional republic. Today, our nation’s protection of anonymous speech is the hope of dissidents worldwide. Yet SB1316 would compel Americans who exercise their right to criticize a state’s highest officials to reveal themselves to the very government they criticize.
SB 1316 is not just unconstitutional. It is fundamentally un-American. It must be soundly rejected, and lawmakers should stop introducing such flagrantly unconstitutional bills. What’s next, the Licensing of the Press Act of 2023?
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