October 5, 2022
Lawmakers have advanced policies that ignore constituents’ greatest concerns, namely inflation and the cost-of-living crisis.
This November, lawmakers representing Floridians in the statehouse and U.S. Congress will again face voters at the ballot box.
While analysts forecast Republican gains in the Sunshine State and across the nation, owing to an unpopular President and a weak economy, candidates from both parties must remain attuned to the public desires as they form campaign strategies and, ultimately, legislative agendas for the upcoming session.
Failure to correctly judge the public mood and the electorate’s priorities could spell disaster for those seeking elected office, but it could also further widen the disconnect between Washington and Tallahassee and the people they represent.
Nowhere is this gulf more evident than in the realm of tech policy which has taken an increasingly central role in political discourse. At both the state and federal levels, lawmakers have advanced policies that ignore constituents’ greatest concerns, namely inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, in favor of lower priorities such as targeting Big Tech companies or reforming antitrust laws.
Much of the drive to attack Big Tech stems from concerns over content moderation and perceived anticompetitive behavior. Despite evidence that conservatives dominate social media, Republicans, including those from Florida, have complained that platforms are unfairly censoring their online speech. Liberals, on the other hand, believe social media companies aren’t doing enough to remove hate speech from their platforms and are using alleged dominance to raise prices for consumers and hurt small businesses and workers.
Over the past two years, lawmakers in Washington have sought to re-write America’s antitrust laws in a way that would fundamentally alter how big tech companies operate, risking the significant welfare they offer Floridians. Proposals at the federal level include a ban on certain companies from self-preferencing their own products and a ban on large tech companies from acquiring smaller companies. Conspicuously absent, however, are traditional brick-and-mortar stores that operate in the same way but would be exempted from any regulatory change.
While Democratic lawmakers have introduced these proposals, they enjoy substantial support from Republican lawmakers. For example, Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA), which would prohibit self-preferencing, was co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley, Lindsey Graham, John Kennedy, Cynthia Lummis, Josh Hawley, and Steve Danes.
In addition, AICOA’s House companion, introduced by Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline, was co-sponsored by Colorado Republican Ken Buck.
In Florida, lawmakers have also taken a hard line on Big Tech. Last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a likely 2024 presidential contender, signed SB 7072 into law which imposed fines of up to $250,000 if Big Tech companies de-platformed political candidates and allowed Floridians to sue platforms for censorship. While the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit declared SB 7027 unconstitutional, a similar law from Texas was allowed to go into effect, teeing up a likely battle in the Supreme Court next session.
These bills ignore the issues that Florida voters care about and the public’s aversion to attacking Big Tech companies. For example, a recent James Madison Institute poll found that just 9% of voters believed further regulation of tech companies should be a priority for lawmakers. Comparatively, 83% said other issues like controlling inflation should be a top priority.
Additionally, 56% of Florida voters believed that greater regulation of tech companies would translate to higher consumer prices, further exacerbating the cost-of-living crisis that has cut living standards across the country.
So, what does this all mean for lawmakers tackling these important debates when the statehouse and Congress return to session in 2023?
Firstly, lawmakers must focus their legislative attention on addressing the cost-of-living crisis facing millions, not just in the Sunshine State, but across the United States. Secondly, these poll results show the public wants their elected representatives to withdraw from their bipartisan broadside against Big Tech companies and begin crafting a legislative environment that will allow the industry to continue lowering the price of goods and services.
As we move into the final weeks of the midterm campaign, Florida’s lawmakers must remember voters’ priorities or risk failing to represent those who sent them to Tallahassee and Washington.