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Day of action focuses on CT undocumented's healthcare needs; 7 jurors seated in first Trump criminal trial; ND looks to ease 'upskill' obstacles for former college students; Black Maternal Health Week ends, health disparities persist.

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Seven jury members were seated in Trump's hush money case. House Speaker Johnson could lose his job over Ukraine aid. And the SCOTUS heard oral arguments in a case that could undo charges for January 6th rioters.

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Fears grow that low-income folks living in USDA housing could be forced out, North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues, and small towns are eligible for grants to boost civic participation..

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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