The Phoenix Flyer

U.S. trial judge nixes Florida caps on donations for citizen initiatives

By: - June 16, 2022 5:11 pm

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida courthouse in Tallahassee.

A federal judge in North Florida Wednesday struck down two Republican-backed laws that critics said would unfairly limit the rights of citizens to amend the state’s Constitution.

Adopted in 2021, Senate Bill 1890 would have capped at $3,000 individual donations to political action committees that support or oppose proposed constitutional amendments.

The American Civil Liberties Union successfully fought to have implementation of that law blocked temporarily — and now permanently — arguing that it would violate freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.

Adopted in 2022 following the injunction against SB 1890, House Bill 921 modified the cap on donations to apply only to out-of-state contributors. It was to go into effect on July 1, but it, too, is now permanently blocked.

U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor in Tallahassee issued the permanent injunctions.

“We are pleased that the court rejected the state’s obviously incorrect legal arguments and put these absurd laws to bed,” said Daniel Tilley, the ACLU of Florida’s legal director, in a written announcement.

“Notably, the court not only permanently enjoined last year’s SB 1890 but also found that the new law [HB 921] passed by the Legislature in an attempt to circumvent the court’s prior ruling … was also found unconstitutional. We are grateful that the state lost in its attempt to eradicate citizens’ initiatives from Florida.” 

SB 1890 was sponsored by Sen. Ray Rodrigues and Reps. Bobby Payne, Tommy Gregory, Tom Leek, and Richard Roth.

House Bill 921 was sponsored by Sen. Jason Brodeur, Rep. Spencer Roach, and Rep. Roth.

Both bills passed with Republican support, over Democratic objections, and were signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper.