TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida state Sen. Jason Brodeur wants bloggers who write about Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and other members of the Florida executive cabinet or legislature to register with the state or face fines.
The republican’s proposal, Senate Bill 1316: Information Dissemination, would require any blogger writing about government officials to register with the Florida Office of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics.
In the bill, Brodeur wrote that those who write “an article, a story, or a series of stories,” about “the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, a Cabinet officer, or any member of the Legislature,” and receives or will receive payment for doing so, must register with state offices within five days after the publication of an article that mentions an elected state official.
If another blog post is added to a blog, the blogger would then be required to submit monthly reports on the 10th of each month with the appropriate state office. They would not have to submit a report on months when no content is published.
For blog posts that “concern an elected member of the legislature” or “an officer of the executive branch,” monthly reports must disclose the amount of compensation received for the coverage, rounded to the nearest $10 value.
If compensation is paid for a series of posts or for a specific amount of time, the blogger would be required to disclose the total amount to be received, upon publication of the first post in said series or timeframe.
Additional compensation must be disclosed later on.
Failure to file these disclosures or register with state officials, if the bill passes, would lead to daily fines for the bloggers, with a maximum amount per report, not per writer, of $2,500. The per-day fine is $25 per report for each day it’s late.
The bill also requires that bloggers file notices of failure to file a timely report the same way that lobbyists file their disclosures and reports on assessed fines. Fines must be paid within 30 days of payment notice, unless an appeal is filed with the appropriate office. Fine payments must be deposited into the Legislative Lobbyist Registration Trust Fund if it concerns an elected member of the legislature.
For writing about members of the executive branch, fines would be made payable to the Executive Branch Lobby Registration Trust Fund or, if it concerns both groups, the fine may be paid to both related trust funds in equal amounts.
Explicitly, the blogger rule would not apply to newspapers or similar publications, under Brodeur’s proposed legislation.
In addition to the blogger regulations, the bill also removes provisions of state statutes to require judicial notices of sales to be published on publicly accessible websites, and specifies that a government agency can publish legally required advertisements and public notices on county sites if the cost is not paid by or recovered from an individual.
Should the bill pass, it would take effect immediately upon approval.