DeSantis Promotes Bonuses For First Responders
The bonuses are contained in the $101 billion state budget, which lawmakers approved days ago. It has yet to reach DeSantis. In an appearance in Fort Myers, DeSantis the governor called the bonuses a recognition of first responders like law enforcement, EMS and firefighters during the pandemic and last summer's social justice protests following the death of George Floyd.
“They were out there every single day,” said DeSantis. “Our police, our firefighters, our EMT’s, and they had to work more than they ever have. Not just to deal with protecting us when the pandemic hit, but then obviously how police were treated last year in many parts the country was a total disgrace.”
The governor again highlighted a new law that increases penalties for crimes created during riots and the creation of new crimes such as mob intimidation. HB 1 also created a process for contesting local government decisions on law enforcement funding. DeSantis notes that provision is a response to calls to defund police.
"We’re not going to let local governments defund law enforcement. Now granted in southwest Florida that’s probably not much of a concern. But that’s something that could happen in some of these other enclaves in the state of Florida," he said. "By passing this bill and me signing it that’s not going to happen. If a local jurisdiction tries to do that we’re restoring the funding."
Critics have called the measure racist, given its origin, and are concerned it could violate First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly.
Legal experts have argued that the policy is redundant because people are already getting arrested in Florida for destroying property or assaulting others during a protest.
Democratic state Rep. Ben Diamond of St. Petersburg, who's also a licensed attorney, argued the bill's language is "vague" and could lead to people getting arrested for exercising their First Amendment rights.
“The way this language is written it means people can be arrested even if they’re not necessarily engaging in that kind of conduct. That’s what’s so troubling," Diamond said. "And it’s not just my reading of it. We’ve gotten, as a legislature, hundreds of letters from law professors that are looking at the same thing saying this is vague and this is confusing.”