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OPINION

Now a Florida Republican Targets the Press With a Blogger Registration Bill

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Phil Sears

Gang, you are supposed to be better than this. 

We have been cataloging a number of censoring actions regarding Townhall the past few weeks, showing the efforts made just this year to limit media exposure and expression. For reasons that defy not only the Constitution but also common sense, a Florida state senator is proposing a bill that would basically align political writers with lobbyists and then demand that they register with the state in the same fashion as those working from that group. 

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At first, it sounded like a crude entry from a parody site, but coming from a known entertainment outlet, it looked legitimate. And sure enough, it is: There is a bill being crafted in Tallahassee that is intended to target writers covering politicians. 

Right off, this sounded wrong, so I had to dig into this insanity. First off, that headline is pure clickbait fodder, as I looked into things with a local writer who found out that Ron DeSantis was not even aware of this concept. So not only is he not behind it, but it is extremely unlikely he will even pass this. But…there is something attempting to be in the works.

What this is all about is a new proposal, SB 1316, that is a daft piece of legislation made all the more ludicrous as it was crafted by a Republican, Senator Jason Brodeur. The intent of this bill is to have writers who are covering state politicians register with the state. And things only unspool from there.

Any writer for a blog would have to register with a state office within five days of a published piece that concerns an elected state official, including the executive office. (This policy would not pertain to news outlets and their affiliated websites.) Not only will they be made to register, but the writer will need to disclose how much they were compensated for the work, as well as reveal “the individual or entity” who delivers this compensation.

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If a writer were not to provide these details, they would incur a fine of $25 per day if the report is not filed. This is clearly to reclassify bloggers. According to the wording of the bill:

“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.”

Brodeur himself asserts this is his goal. He told the outlet Florida Politics, “Paid bloggers are lobbyists who write instead of talk. They both are professional electioneers. If lobbyists have to register and report, why shouldn’t paid bloggers?”

This would only lead to more questions, as this appears an entirely unfocused bill. Does this apply to any sites outside of Florida? Will this be a requirement for all coverage of any elected official, even positive and neutral stories? What agency will exactly be expected to oversee and enforce this policy?

Nothing about this proposal sounds needed, let alone sounds sane. This is yet another method politicians want to exert in order to stem coverage they are uncomfortable dealing with and handling. To see this derive from the mind of a Republican legislator is disturbing. We do not need to see this kind of leverage applied to the press coming from the right. We deal with enough of these restrictive actions from Democrats and the groups they fund.

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