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Florida Senate Says Turn It Up

Feel free to turn your radio volume up. The Florida Senate won’t try to stop you.

Florida used to have a law that fined people who played their car radios so loudly they their music could be heard from more than 25 feet away. Last year, the Florida Supreme Court struck down. The case came after  a  Pinellas County lawyer was issued a ticket for playing a Justin Timber Lake song too loudly on his way to work.  The Supreme Court said the law had provided exceptions for certain kinds of speech—like political speech, but outlawed other kinds of speech—like the lawyer’s music. And because of that, the court said the law violated the First Amendment of the constitution. But Senator Wilton Simpson (R-New Port Richey) had a bill to reinstate the law and take care of the court’s concerns.

So instead of selecting just one kind of speech, the bill would apply to all speech – commercial, political and whatever you’re jamming to.

Senator Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) said he likes listening to loud music just as much as the next guy, but he said this bill addresses drivers who are taking that maybe a little too far.

“We’ve all been there. You pull up to the red light and the windows are rattling. There’s just a smidge of an over preponderance of base coming from a neighboring car. And you scan, who’s doing it. What car could possibly be rocking base that hard?"

Bean said it hurts his ears and he worries about his kids's ears. And he said music like that, is  what the bill would stop. But Senator Nancy Detert, a Republican from Venice said lawmakers shouldn’t try to legislate away annoyances.

“I don’t like it either. Anybody blasting their radio and there’s plenty of them and they’ve got 12 speakers and they’re next to you at the stoplight and  we all look at them and go ‘what a jerk,’ and you drive on. I mean, it’s life,” Detert said.

And Detert added it doesn’t make sense to make listening to  loud music a big enough offense that police officers could pull a person over just for that when her own bill, which curbs texting while driving, is a secondary offense. Detert says texting while driving is much more dangerous than listening to loud music.

But Senator Simpson, the bill’s author said his measure deals with serious safety issues.

If you are playing your music really loud, which I have probably loud music today, because when I was 16 and 17 years old I did, you may not hear ambulances coming in your car. So, if you’re the one who says ,’well, it won’t kill anybody.’ Well, it may not kill anybody in your car, but it may kill the next guy because the ambulance can’t get there because you can’t hear it coming and don’t get out of the way,” Simpson said.

The measure received a tied vote—19 to 19, which means it failed to pass on the Senate floor.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.