A Republican Florida lawmaker wants all bloggers who write about Gov. Ron DeSantis and other government officials to register with the state or face punishment in the form of fines.
State Sen. Jason Brodeur this week introduced Senate Bill 1316, which would mandate that any blogger writing about government officials — including the governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet officers and any member of the state legislature or executive branch — has to register with the Florida Office of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics.
Basic information about the blog posts, including the dates published and web addresses, would have to be turned in to state offices.
The bill states that anyone who writes "an article, a story, or a series of stories," about "elected state officers" who receives or will receive payment, must register with the state within five days of publication.
If any follow-up posts are made to a blog, they would also be required to submit a report on the 10th of each month with the appropriate state office, with the exception of months when no content is published.
Bloggers that make posts that "concern an elected member of the legislature" or "an officer of the executive branch," would have to disclose the amount of compensation they received for the coverage rounded to the nearest $10 value. If it is a series of posts, the blogger would have to disclose the total amount to be received in the time frame, NBC affiliate WFLA reported.
"If the compensation is for a series of blog posts or for a defined period of time, the blogger must disclose the total amount to be received upon the first blog post being published," the bill reads. "Thereafter, the blogger must disclose the date or dates additional compensation is received, if any, for the series of blog posts."
Any additional compensation must be disclosed later. The bill also says that the reports "must include" the "individual or entity that compensated the blogger for the blog post, and "the amount of compensation received from the individual or entity."
If the bill passes, a blogger who doesn't file the correct disclosures or register their work with state officials would receive daily fines, with a maximum amount per report (not per writer) of $2,500.
The fine would be $25 for each day the blogger is late to report to the state.
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The proposed legislation would only apply to posts about elected officials, not candidates, and it would only apply to blogs — not newspapers or similar publications.
In addition to regulations on bloggers, the bill also specifies that government agencies can publish legally required advertisements and public notices on county sites if the cost is not paid by or recovered from an individual.
Brodeur's motivation for drafting the bill comes from his belief that bloggers should be treated like lobbyists.
"Each house of the Legislature and the Commission on Ethics shall adopt by rule, for application to bloggers, the same procedure by which lobbyists are notified of the failure to timely file a report and the amount of the assessed fines," the bill reads.
When asked about equating bloggers to lobbyists, Brodeur told the website Florida Politics that "paid bloggers are lobbyists who write instead of talk."
"They both are professional electioneers," he told the outlet. "If lobbyists have to register and report, why shouldn't paid bloggers?"
Brodeur has faced media criticism since his first run for Florida Senate in 2020. According to reporting from Florida Politics late last year, Republicans in Brodeur's district allegedly recruited candidates to run with no party affiliation, commonly called a "ghost candidate."
He won that election with just 50.3% of the vote, beating his Democratic opponent Patricia Sigman, while a no-party-affiliated candidate, Jestine Iannotti — who had misleading mailers sent out on her behalf using a stock photo of a Black woman — siphoned off 5,787 votes.
Ron Kuby, a First Amendment lawyer in New York, told NBC News that the Brodeur's proposed legislation would not survive a court challenge if it is passed.
"It's hard to imagine a proposal that would be more violative of the First Amendment," Kuby told the outlet. "We don't register journalists. People who write cannot be forced to register."
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