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Some New State Laws Face Court Challenges And The Consumer Chaos Ignited By Gas Pipeline Shutdown

Several controversial new laws passed this year, after Florida's legislative session, have already been hit with lawsuits.

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a measure that made changes to the way Floridians can vote by mail. The law places restrictions on drop boxes for mail-in ballots, bans third party groups from aiding voters in returning their mail-in ballots, prevents non-poll workers from offering food and water to voters standing in line and requires voters to renew their mail-in ballot request annually.

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The same day DeSantis signed the bill, the League of Women Voters of Florida, Black Voters Matter and The Florida Alliance For Retired Americans filed a lawsuit against the law. They claim that it obstructs voting access.

Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Talley Wells said he believes in the power of Florida’s courts to defend the state’s constitution.

“I have confidence that the courts will step in and protect the right to vote, as the most fundamental right we have,” he said.

Another measure, the anti-riot bill, or HB 1 also faced immediate legal challenges. The law is multi-faceted, including creating a new crime of “mob intimidation” and enhancing riot-related penalties.

The organizations behind the suit challenging HB 1 argue that the measure is overly broad, vague and “subjects non-violent protesters to criminal liability for exercising protected rights to speech and assembly.”

A.G. Gancarski is a reporter for Florida Politics. He said he doesn't think supporters of the new laws are worried about the challenges being filed.

“I don’t think they care if it holds up or not,” Gancarski said. “I think the idea is basically to create culture war fights, that are litigated and basically gum up the works and to try to keep the Republican majority going for one more decade.”

Panic At the Gas Pumps

A ransomware attack on one of the nation’s largest gasoline suppliers created consumer panic of a fuel shortage.

Colonial Pipeline shut down its pipeline connecting Texas to New Jersey following the attack, leaving people in the southeastern part of the country to worry about access to gas.

In Florida many gas stations saw long lines and empty fuel pumps as a result of people trying to stock up.

Gov. DeSantis declared a state of emergency Tuesday night, stating the disruption of the Colonial Pipeline operations posed a “significant and immediate threat” to fuel delivery to Florida.

“We’re relaxing restrictions in terms of the weight in order to get more fuel trucks into the parts of Florida that need more fuel. But ultimately we really do need the federal government to step up and help. We don’t want to see these long gas lines persist throughout the northern part of our state,” he said.

But Ned Bowman, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association, said Florida’s fuel supply would not have been impacted by the Colonial pipeline shutdown, as the majority of gas comes into the state through its ports.

He blames “panic buying” for the shortages of fuel in the state this week.

Colonial did restart operations Wednesday. Meanwhile, their cybersecurity consultants have been working to secure the company's servers.

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Andrea Perdomo is a producer for WLRN News.