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DeSantis files motion to dismiss police budget lawsuit

Kathleen McGrory
Miami Herald

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration this week asked a Leon County circuit judge to dismiss a lawsuit challenging part of a controversial 2021 law that would allow the governor and state Cabinet members to override local governments’ decisions about police spending.

A group of cities filed the lawsuit in November, arguing that the law unconstitutionally “strips municipalities of budget-setting authority.”

The budget issue was part of a broader law that DeSantis and Republican lawmakers approved to crack down on violent protests. DeSantis rolled out the framework for the legislation amid nationwide protests in 2020 after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer. The protests included calls in some parts of the country to “defund the police.”

DeSantis and other Republicans pointed to those calls as a reason for including the budget-related change in the 2021 law. Under the law, state attorneys or members of city councils or city commissions who vote against police spending reductions can appeal the spending decisions to the state Administration Commission, which is made up of the governor and members of the Cabinet.

In a motion to dismiss the lawsuit this week, attorneys for DeSantis argued, in part, that the cities do not have legal standing because the governor and Cabinet members have not handled any appeals about spending reductions.

“Indeed, before the commission can act, a municipality must propose a budget reducing its law enforcement agency’s funding and certain local officials must petition the commission to deny or modify the proposed reduction,” the motion said. “Plaintiffs do not allege that either precondition has occurred or is imminent.” The case is before Circuit Judge Layne Smith.