The court’s order permanently enjoins a previously enjoined provision and blocks an additional law from going into effect on July 1
TALLAHASSEE, FL – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, representing the Fair Elections for Democracy Campaign, secured a permanent injunction on Wednesday afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in its challenge against 2021’s Senate Bill 1890, a law that undermined the citizen initiative process and violated Floridians’ First Amendment rights. That law, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, was to go into effect on July 1, 2021, and would have imposed a $3,000 limit on the donations individuals could make to sponsors of state ballot initiatives. A second law, 2022’s House Bill 921, would have modified that $3,000 limit to apply only to out-of-state contributors. That law was to go into effect on July 1, 2022, and was also enjoined today.
“We are pleased that the Court rejected the state’s obviously incorrect legal arguments and put these absurd laws to bed,” said Daniel Tilley, legal director for the ACLU of Florida. “Notably, the Court not only permanently enjoined last year’s SB1890 but also found that the new law passed by the legislature in an attempt to circumvent the Court's prior ruling, HB 921, was also found unconstitutional. We are grateful that the state lost in its attempt to eradicate citizens’ initiatives from Florida.”
The restrictions of SB 1890 and HB 921 violated long-standing First Amendment case law. Decades ago, Florida tried and failed to implement a similar $3,000 contribution cap for citizen initiative sponsors. A legal challenge was brought, and the same U.S. District Court—affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court—struck down that limit as violating the First Amendment, which protects the freedom to express views on political matters and act collectively to do so. Despite decades of precedent holding that a similar contribution cap violated the First Amendment, SB 1890 and HB 921 were blatant attempts to obstruct this fundamental right.
Initial briefing in the case argued that SB 1890 limited the Fair Elections for Democracy sponsors’ ability to spread their message and ideas for improving Florida’s democracy, as well as to secure the signatures needed to get their initiatives on the ballot, due to the high cost of collecting petition signatures in Florida. Supplemental briefing following HB 921’s passage explained how the new law had no effect on the broader scheme’s unconstitutionality.
A copy of the order for permanent injunction is available here: https://www.aclufl.org/en/aclu-florida-v-byrd-order-granting-permanent-injunction
Read the lawsuit challenging S.B. 1890 here: https://www.aclufl.org/en/press-releases/aclu-florida-sues-block-florida-law-undermines-citizen-initiative-process