Florida House revises legislation to limit State Guard deployments

A recent revision to a bill in Florida has eliminated a provision that could have restricted Governor Ron DeSantis from deploying the Florida State Guard to the southern border of the United States.

The original House Bill 1551, which was sponsored by state Rep. Mike Giallombardo, R- Cape Coral, has been replaced with a committee substitute authored by the Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee.

If the new bill is enacted into law, it will impose additional screening requirements on individuals applying for the State Guard. The State Guard was established in 2022 as a separate “defense force” that U.S. states and territories can create, which is not obligated to respond to federal call-ups.

The Florida State Guard consists entirely of volunteers and has a maximum capacity of 1,500 members.

Applicants to the State Guard would be required to submit their fingerprints for processing. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement would then forward the fingerprints to the FBI to conduct a national criminal history check.

The law enforcement department must keep fingerprints and any arrest records, which they will report to the state Department of Military Affairs.

In an announcement made in early February, Governor DeSantis revealed that the troops dispatched to the border would be utilized to install extra barriers, including razor wire. In a show of support, the two-term Republican governor and GOP presidential candidate also deployed 1,000 National Guardsmen to assist in border control.

In his news release, DeSantis expressed his support for states defending their sovereignty and increasing their assistance to Texas in its efforts to address the border invasion. He emphasized the critical importance of having secure borders, stating, “We don’t have a country if we don’t have a border.”

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HB 1285, if it had been passed in its original form, would have made it illegal to deploy the State Guard outside of the Sunshine State.

The Guard would offer assistance to other states under an Emergency Management Assistance Compact, as stated in the original summary of HB 1285.

The original version of the bill states that the State Guard will only be deployed within the state or provide assistance to other states. Furthermore, it explicitly states that the U.S. armed forces will not have access to or utilize the State Guard in any capacity. Additionally, the bill has expanded the number of available volunteer positions from 400 to 1,500.

Giallombardo, during the bill’s progression through the House Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee, stated that the sole objective of the bill is to incorporate level two background checks for individuals applying to the Florida State Guard.

During the 2023 regular session, Representative Giallombardo sponsored HB 1285, a bill that established the State Guard as a permanent volunteer force. The purpose of this legislation was to ensure that the State Guard would be able to effectively protect and defend the public from any threats to public safety.

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