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Nine Florida cities suing over restrictions on cutting law enforcement budgets

Leon County commissioners will recommend 15 applicants to the governor, who will then appoint five members to the council.
Leon County commissioners will recommend 15 applicants to the governor, who will then appoint five members to the council.

Tallahassee, Gainesville and a handful of South Florida municipalities are challenging a state law that gives the governor and Cabinet the ability to override local decisions on law enforcement budgets.

Tallahassee City Commissioner Jack Porter says the commission is being limited regarding what changes it can make to the Tallahassee Police Department’s budget.

The city, along with Gainesville and seven South Florida municipalities, filed a lawsuit against a state law that would, in part, allow the governor and cabinet to review any reductions in local law enforcement budgets and override them.

“The governor and Cabinet do not have any legal authority to force a city to increase its law enforcement spending when the city decides the funds can be better spent elsewhere," Porter said during a zoom call with reporters and other city officials.

The provision is part of House Bill 1 — a law approved by the Republican-led Legislature in response to last summer’s social justice protests. In September, a federal court issued a stay on the law over separate provisions aimed at curbing riots. The court found the language regarding riots to be vague.

The part of the law at the center of the lawsuit filed Tuesday focuses on a section that allows state attorneys or members of city and county commissions who vote against a law enforcement reduction, to appeal it to the state Administration Commission, whose officers are the governor, agriculture commissioner, attorney general, and chief financial officer.

“Plain and simple, Section 1 of HB 1 is a power grab by Gov. DeSantis in order to silence communities that disagree with him and his policies,” said John Miller, an attorney representing plaintiffs.

“Those communities trying to implement common-sense reforms and exercise the will of the people are concerned about retribution from the state. They’re confused about the scope of this law, and their authority has been unlawfully restricted.”

Gainesville, Worth Beach, Lauderhill, Miramar, North Bay Village, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Tallahassee and Wilton Manors are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.
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