TALLAHASSEE, FL – Today, the House Appropriations Committee voted to pass House Bill 1285, a bill that would divert $98 million in taxpayer dollars to fortify a Florida State Guard, which would be accountable to the Governor and no other government entity.
The ACLU of Florida opposes this bill and any related appropriation.
Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel, responded to today’s vote with the following:
“This bill will turn Florida into a police state. It is an unprecedented and terrifying abuse of power by the Governor.
“HB 1285 would divert $98 million in taxpayer dollars away from addressing issues critical to Floridians, such as the housing crisis, and instead vests that money in the Governor’s fortification of an unnecessary, duplicative, and unaccountable Florida State Guard. Just imagine how many Floridians the Governor could help if he instead chose to direct that money toward creating affordable housing, improving health care, and increasing the minimum wage.
“The sweeping nature of this bill is astounding: it would divert nearly $100 million in taxpayer funding to build, arm, clothe, equip, and train a volunteer armed guard of 1,500 people to assume the duties of the National Guard. These volunteers would have access to weapons, ammunition, planes, helicopters, boats, and surveillance technology, and would, unique among states with a State Guard, create a special unit within the State Guard with authority to make arrests. What makes this even more troubling is that the newly-envisioned State Guard will only be accountable to the Governor and can be activated not just in a state of emergency, but any time the Governor deems necessary to broadly protect ‘from threats to public safety.’ This broad language fails to provide guardrails to ensure this special unit could not be deployed to crack down on activities that this Legislature is in the process of criminalizing.
“Under the bill, the Governor will appoint the director of the state guard who serves at the pleasure of the Governor – meaning there will be no checks and balances on when and how this force is used. Additionally, the Governor can order his State Guard to take action in other states. This is a terrifying bill that puts Floridians’ privacy, security, and safety in grave danger.
“Floridians want to live in a free state, this bill makes Florida a police state.”