Tampa Bay Times
By Mary Ellen Klas
The measure was a priority for Gov. Ron DeSantis.
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis’ goal of passing legislation that would rewrite federal defamation law and make it easier to sue critics appears dead for the legislative session, but the author of the bill said he will be back to try it again next year.
“There’s just not enough time, and I have too much stuff on my plate,” said Rep. Alex Andrade, R-Pensacola, the House sponsor of HB 991, as lawmakers approach the final week of the annual 60-day session, which ends May 5. The companion measure, SB 1220, is also dead, he said, as time ran out before the bills could be heard in their final committees.
The bills would have removed many of the legal protections against defamation lawsuits established in the landmark 1964 Supreme Court case New York Times v. Sullivan by changing what is considered a public figure in a defamation claim and eliminating the longstanding protections for the news media in its coverage of politicians, government officials and public figures.
Although the measure was a top priority for DeSantis, who has been sued for curbing First Amendment protections for critics of his policies in Florida, support for the measure had waned.