Florida Politics: Tallahassee Mayor decries anti-riot bill as ‘human rights issue’

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By Jason Delgado

Dailey also argued the bill undermines home rule.

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey on Tuesday became the latest local leader to speak out against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ anti-riot bill.

The bill (HB 1) is among the most contentious proposals of the 2021 Legislative Session.

It contains a slew of provisions aiming to combat public disorder. Among them, the bill would stiffen penalties against rioters and allow state leaders to overrule a municipality’s decision to slash police budgets.

Dailey, a Democrat, described the bill as a “human rights issue” that flies in the face of free speech.

“As the Mayor of Tallahassee and as an elected official, I will fight with every bone in my body to protect your First Amendment right,” he told reporters.

Dailey also argued the bill undermines home-rule.

Under the bill, state attorneys and elected officials who vote against a budget cut to law enforcement can petition the state.

Thereafter, the Governor and Cabinet would have authority to overturn the proposed reductions.

“The state would not stand for the federal government engaging in this sort of overreach and disregard for states rights, and neither should they engage in the same type of overreach and disregard of home rule,” Dailey contended.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin of Miami-Dade, is a Republican priority.

DeSantis announced his vision for the bill last summer amid a nationwide spree of riots and protests spurred by fatal police interactions, including the high-profile police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Months later, Republican leaders unveiled the bill after rioters breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

A floor vote in the House is now days away.

“I believe this bill is bad for all cities, all communities, Tallahassee and the state of Florida,” Dailey added.

While Dailey hopes the legislative process will soften the legislation, Republicans have surrendered little ground to Democratic amendments.

Republicans contend the legislation is needed to protect law enforcement and law-abiding citizens.

Critics including the Southern Poverty Law Center argue the bill is unlawful and suppressive.

“This bill is nothing more than an attempt to chill free speech and undermine local control,” said SPLC Policy Director Carrie Boyd, who joined Dailey at the press conference.

Later, Leon County Republican Republican Party Chairman Evan Power issued a statement criticizing the Mayor’s position.

Power noted that Tallahassee experienced its own wave of protests over the summer.

During those demonstrations, protestors often blocked roads and defied police orders despite pleas from city officials.

“Mayor Dailey chose to side with those who wish to infringe on the rights of others rather than a majority of our citizens and our hard-working law enforcement officers,” Powers wrote. “The idea that someone can oppose the idea of holding those that block streets, assault law enforcement officers, and commit property damage accountable is shocking.”

The House is expected to vote on the proposal Friday.

If signed into law, the bill would take effect immediately.