(The Center Square) – A bill adopted by Florida’s Republican-dominated Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis capping early-campaign contributions to citizens’ initiatives committees did not go into effect Thursday.
A federal judge has blocked Senate Bill 1890 from being enacted, granting the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida’s motion for a temporary injunction until its federal lawsuit is heard.
“Binding decisions from the United States Supreme Court concluded the First Amendment forbids limitations like those SB 1890 imposes,” U.S. Northern District of Florida Judge Allen Winsor, appointed by former President Donald Trump, wrote in his 17-page order, which states Florida has “no significant interest” in limiting political speech, in the form of donations, of political committees.
Winsor is the second federal judge to block a newly-adopted Florida law from going into effect Thursday.
U.S. Middle District of Florida Judge Robert Hinkle late Wednesday granted Computer & Communications Industry Association’s (CCIA) and NetChoice’s motion for a temporary injunction against Senate Bill 7072, Florida’s ‘Big Tech’ crackdown.
The Governor’s Office said Thursday it will “immediately appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. As Judge Hinkle seemed to indicate during this week’s hearing on preliminary injunction, this case was always bound for the 11th Circuit and the appeals court will ultimately make its own decision on legal conclusions.”
Through early afternoon Friday, Florida officials had not commented on Winsor’s ruling.
SB 1890, sponsored by Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, and carried by Rep. Bobby Payne, R-Palatka, in the House was adopted in partisan votes; 23-17 in the Senate, April 15, and 75-40 in the House, April 26.
SB 1890 caps donations to committees backing proposed constitutional amendments at $3,000 until 222,898 validated voters sign onto the petition warranting a mandatory Supreme Court review. Afterwards, no caps apply in attempting the secure the 891,589 signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot.
The bill was labeled the “John Morgan law,” referring to the Orlando attorney and his law firm, which kicked in more than $6 million for 2016’s ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana and nearly $5 million in support of Amendment 2, which voters approved in November to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2026.
DeSantis signed SB 1890 into law May 7. The next day, the ACLU filed the federal lawsuit claiming the law violates the First Amendment.
In early June, the ACLU and three newly-formed committees led by Sean Shaw, a former state House rep and 2018 Democratic attorney general candidate, filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction against implementing SB 1890 on July 1.
The Florida Attorney General’s Office responded June 14 with a 14-page motion to dismiss, maintaining the restriction is “a temporary, targeted cap” that only applies until supporters can qualify for the ballot and ensures “that funding for the initiative has not been provided by a small handful, or even a single, very well-heeled special interest donor.”
But Winsor ruled the state “has no significant interest in limiting speech of political committees with fewer (but bigger) contributors. Indeed, even when it comes to limits on contributions to candidates, the only significant interest the Supreme Court has found is to avoid corruption (or the perception of it), which is not at issue here.”
Claiming the cap is constitutional because it’s “temporary, targeted” doesn’t hold water, Winsor said. “It is unclear why this would matter for First Amendment purposes,” he wrote.
The injunction allows committees to continue collecting uncapped contributions, including for the recently-filed proposed amendment to legalize sports betting bankrolled by DraftKings and FanDuel.
The Florida Division of Elections (DOE) lists 31 active citizen-initiated amendment drives, 13 filed in 2021. All would be subject to SB 1890.