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Day two of David Pecker testimony wraps in NY Trump trial; Supreme Court hears arguments on Idaho's near-total abortion ban; ND sees a flurry of campaigning among Native candidates; and NH lags behind other states in restricting firearms at polling sites.

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The Senate moves forward with a foreign aid package. A North Carolina judge overturns an aged law penalizing released felons. And child protection groups call a Texas immigration policy traumatic for kids.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

FL lawmakers back in Tallahassee to debate limits on abortion, free speech

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Tuesday, January 9, 2024   

Within hours of the start of Florida's legislative session, newly filed bills are set to test the limits on hot-button topics such as abortion and free speech.

Florida's new 15-week abortion ban has yet to be implemented due to litigation, but state Rep. David Borrero, R-Sweetwater, has filed H.B. 1519, which would prohibit any person or entity from purposely performing or attempting to perform an abortion.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, took to social media to express her outrage, calling the move "cruel for the sake of being cruel."

"It is a total abortion ban that eliminates what were already narrow exceptions for rape or incest and also goes further into criminalizing individuals or entities that provide medication abortion by mail, " she implored.

The news comes as a state constitutional amendment that would protect abortion access in Florida received enough signatures of support to appear on ballots in the November election. However, a challenge by the state's attorney general could still block it, claiming the language is misleading.

Another newly filed measure, S.B. 1780, by Sen. Jason Brodeur, R-Lake Mary, would make it easier for an individual to sue another person for defamation.

Eskamani sees the measure as an attempt to create a penalty for an opinion one doesn't like, which she believes is a slippery slope that could lead to criminalization.

"As long as you're not directly threatening me, there really is not a path forward that I can pursue," Eskamani explained, "and I'm OK with that because I should not be punishing people for expressing a viewpoint I don't like. I don't have to agree with it."

For a successful defamation case, one has to prove "actual malice." A defendant found liable for defamation could be fined at least $35,000. The bill also removes bedrock journalistic privileges, particularly the right to keep sources anonymous. Statements from anonymous sources would be considered "presumptively false," making journalists reporting on discrimination vulnerable to lawsuits.

Tuesday is the final day for lawmakers to file bills, and the legislative session wraps up in early March.


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