Florida Senator Jason Brodeur, a Republican from Lake Mary, has proposed a new bill, Senate Bill 1316: Information Dissemination, that would require bloggers who write about members of the Florida executive cabinet or legislature, including Governor Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody, to register with the state or face fines.
According to the bill, bloggers who receive payment for writing “an article, a story, or a series of stories” about any elected state official must register with either the Florida Office of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics within five days of publishing the article.
Bloggers who publish additional posts would be required to submit monthly reports on the 10th of each month to the appropriate state office, disclosing the compensation received for any coverage that concerns an elected member of the legislature or an officer of the executive branch. If compensation is paid for a series of posts or for a specific amount of time, the total amount must be disclosed upon publication of the first post in that series or timeframe, with any additional compensation to be disclosed later on.
Failure to register or file these disclosures, if the bill is passed, would result in daily fines for bloggers, with a maximum fine of $2,500 per report, not per writer. The bill also requires that bloggers file notices of failure to file a timely report in the same way that lobbyists file their disclosures and reports on assessed fines, with fines to be paid within 30 days of payment notice unless an appeal is filed.
Fine payments would be deposited into either the Legislative Lobbyist Registration Trust Fund or the Executive Branch Lobby Registration Trust Fund, depending on which elected official the coverage concerns.
It should be noted that the proposed blogger regulations would not apply to newspapers or similar publications. The bill also includes provisions that remove requirements for judicial notices of sales to be published on publicly accessible websites, and allow government agencies to publish legally required advertisements and public notices on county sites if the cost is not paid by or recovered from an individual. If the bill is passed, it would take effect immediately upon approval.