The GOP-controlled Florida Senate on Thursday passed a controversial “anti-riot” bill, sending it to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who began advocating for the bill last year following the unrest that hit many U.S. cities last summer over the deaths of Black people at the hands of police.
The legislation—H.B. 1—would strengthen and create new penalties for crimes committed during a “riot” or violent protest. It would also punish local governments that interfere with law enforcement’s efforts to control riots and establish a citizen’s appeal process when cities and counties attempt to reduce police budgets in response to riots.
This measure was passed the same week as a new wave of Black Lives Matter protests have hit a Minneapolis suburb after a recent high-profile killing of a Black man, Daunte Wright, by police. These protests have seen some violent clashes between protesters and law enforcement, as well as destruction of property.
While the bill’s supporters have argued this bill is about “law and order,” opponents have charged that H.B. 1 restricts the freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly and that it’s meant to attack the Black Lives Matter movement, something which H.B. 1 supporters have denied.
“Can I tell you that this bill is not about racism? Not entirely, I can’t know,” said GOP Senator Ed Hooper, according to CBS News. “But I do believe in my heart that, at the end of the day, we are a nation and a country of law and order.”
Opposing H.B. 1, the American Civil Liberties Union said the legislation would give police broad discretion over what’s deemed a protest and a riot, per CBS News.
“The bill was purposely designed to embolden the disparate police treatment we have seen over and over again directed towards Black and brown people who are exercising their constitutional right to protest,” said Micah Kubic, the executive director of ACLU of Florida, according to CBS News.
The bill passed 23-17, mostly along party lines after more than two hours of heated debate. Only one Republican senator, Jeffrey Brandes, voted against it.
After the bill’s final passage Thursday evening, DeSantis said he looked forward to signing the bill. According to NBC News, he is expected to do so as early as next week.
“This legislation strikes the appropriate balance of safeguarding every Floridian’s constitutional right to peacefully assemble, while ensuring that those who hide behind peaceful protest to cause violence in our communities will be punished,” the governor said in a statement. “Further, this legislation ensures that no community in the state engages in defunding of their police.”
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @DouglasPBraff.
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Biden Administration Proposes Rule to Fortify Federal Bureaucracy Against Republican Presidency
In a strategic move, the Biden administration has unveiled a proposed rule aimed at reinforcing the left-leaning federal bureaucracy, potentially hindering future conservative policy implementations by Republican presidents. This move has raised concerns about the efficacy of democratic elections when a deep-seated bureaucracy remains largely unchanged, regardless of electoral outcomes.
Key points of the situation include:
Presidential Appointees vs. Career Bureaucrats: Of the 2.2 million federal civil workers, only 4,000 are presidential appointees. The vast majority, made up of career bureaucrats, continue in their roles from one administration to the next. This continuity is facilitated by rules that make it exceedingly difficult to discipline or replace them, resulting in a bureaucracy that tends to lean left politically.
Union Political Affiliation: A striking 95% of unionized federal employees who donate to political candidates support Democrats, according to Open Secrets, with only 5% favoring Republicans. This significant political skew among federal workers raises questions about the potential for political bias in the execution of government policies.
Obstructionism and Challenges for GOP Presidents: Some career bureaucrats have been accused of obstructing Republican presidents’ agendas, leading to policy delays and challenges. For example, during the Trump administration, career lawyers in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division declined to challenge Yale University’s discrimination against Asian American applicants, prompting Trump to seek legal counsel from other divisions. The case was subsequently dropped when Joe Biden took office.
Biden’s Countermeasures: President Biden has taken steps to protect the bureaucracy’s status quo. In October 2020, Trump issued an executive order aiming to reclassify federal workers who make policy as at-will employees, but Biden canceled it upon taking office.
Proposed Rule and Congressional Actions: The rule unveiled by the Biden administration seeks to further impede a president’s ability to reinstate Trump’s order. Additionally, some Democrats in Congress are pushing to eliminate the president’s authority to reclassify jobs entirely. This has been referred to as an attempt to “Trump-proof the federal workforce.”
Republican Candidates’ Pledge: GOP candidates such as President Donald J Trump, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Ron DeSantis have pledged to address this issue. According to reports from Fox News, Ramaswamy has gone further, advocating for the elimination of half or more of civil service positions, emphasizing the need for accountability.
Debate on the Merit of the Civil Service: While Democrats and their media allies argue that civil service protects merit over patronage, critics contend that the system has evolved into a form of job security for federal workers with minimal accountability. Federal employees often receive higher salaries and more substantial benefits than their private-sector counterparts.
In summary, the Biden administration’s proposed rule and broader actions to protect the federal bureaucracy have sparked a debate over the role of career bureaucrats in shaping government policy.
Republican candidates are vowing to address these concerns, highlighting the need for accountability and ensuring that government agencies work in alignment with the elected president’s agenda. This ongoing debate raises important questions about the relationship between the bureaucracy and the democratic process in the United States.
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