Thursday, November 23, 2017
Politics

Get to know the new law of the land in Florida as of July 1

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Rideshare services, such as Lyft and Uber, will have to comply with statewide rules, and students and teachers will be allowed to express their religious beliefs at public schools, under new laws that will go into effect Saturday.

The changes — including two bills from the special session — are among 125 revisions to Florida statutes that hit the books on July 1.

The new laws include Florida's $82 billion budget, along with a package offering $91.6 million in tax breaks during the upcoming year and new rules regarding public notification of toxic spills. A controversial law regarding charter schools will also go into effect.

Lawmakers sent 241 bills to Scott during the regular legislative session that ended in May, along with four proposals passed during a three-day special session earlier this month.

The governor has signed 234 measures and vetoed 11.

A number of the bills still require approval from voters before becoming law, including a statewide proposal (HB 7107, HJR 7105) that would expand the homestead exemption by $25,000, if approved by voters in November 2018.

Seventy-eight bills became law upon Scott's signature, including rules for medical marijuana (SB 8A) and a plan (SB 10) that will allow the state to bond money for a controversial reservoir intended to help clean South Florida waterways.

Another 27 laws will go into effect on Oct. 1, including a measure (HB 477) that will impose tougher sentencing for fentanyl possession and distribution.

Here are some of the laws that will hit the books July 1:

BUDGET

SB 2500, the state's $80 billion spending plan for 2017-2018, dubbed by the governor's office as the "Fighting for Florida's Future" budget. The package outlines funding for state agencies as well as numerous individual local projects.

HB 1A, creates an $85 million "job growth" trust fund for regional economic development projects and workforce training, and provides $75 million for the public-private Visit Florida. The new law also steers $50 million toward repairs on the Herbert Hoover Dike.

HB 3A, adds $215 million for the Florida Education Finance Program, or FEFP, which should boost per-student funding by $100. Scott vetoed spending on the program --- which included a $24.49 per-student increase in the main funding formula for public schools --- during the regular session.

HB 7022, provides across-the-board pay raises to state employees for the first time since 2013. State law enforcement officers will get a 5 percent hike, while most correctional officers will get an extra $2,500 a year. Judges, state attorneys and public defenders will see 10 percent raises. The legislation also includes changes to health insurance and retirement plans for state employees.

TAX CUTS

HB 7109, a business-friendly package, has a variety of start dates. The measure provides a three-day back-to-school discount on certain clothes worth up to $60 each, school staples up to $15 each, and personal computers that cost less than $750. Two other key portions of the package --- an elimination of sales taxes on feminine hygiene products and a reduction in a commercial lease tax --- go into effect on Jan. 1.

LAW ENFORCEMENT

HB 111, establishes a public-records exemption for identifying information about murder witnesses. Supporters of the bill said many witnesses fear retaliation for cooperating with police.

HB 151, allows the use of "therapy" and "facility" dogs in courts to help provide support for children who testify in cases involving child abuse, abandonment or neglect.

HB 305, allows law-enforcement officers to review footage from their body cameras before filling out reports.

COMMUNICATIONS

SB 90, carries out a constitutional amendment approved last August aimed at boosting the use of solar energy in the state. The amendment called for extending a renewable-energy tax break for commercial and industrial properties and making renewable-energy equipment exempt from state tangible personal property taxes.

HB 687, limits the ability of local governments to regulate types of equipment known as "small wireless facilities" in public rights of ways. The equipment is for emerging 5G technology.

EDUCATION

SB 396, requires colleges and universities each year to provide students with financial information regarding their student loans.

SB 436, deals with religious expression in schools. The measure is intended to prevent school districts from discriminating against students, parents or school employees on the basis of religious viewpoints or expression.

HB 989, overhauls the state's policy on instructional materials to allow any county resident --- not just parents --- to challenge materials, such as books, used at schools.

HB 7069, a wide-ranging education bill that encompasses everything from school testing to recess. The $419 million bill sets aside $140 to encourage charter schools to locate near struggling traditional public schools, and includes funding for extra services for students at struggling schools, teacher bonuses and assistance for parents to help pay for education services for children with disabilities.

HEALTH CARE

SB 2514, sets up a process for the state Agency for Health Care Administration to ask legislative leaders to release $1.5 billion for the Low Income Pool program after a final agreement is reached with the federal government. The program provides extra money to hospitals that serve large numbers of poor and uninsured patients. The wide-ranging bill also revamps the way nursing homes will be paid in the future in the Medicaid program.

BIRTH CERTIFICATES

HB 101, allows families to request certificates of "nonviable birth" after miscarriages. Called the "Grieving Families Act," the measure gives parents the option of seeking certificates of nonviable birth for fetuses lost between the ninth and 20th weeks of gestation.

TRANSPORTATION

HB 221, creates long-debated statewide regulations for "transportation network companies," such as Uber and Lyft. The measure, backed by the ridesharing industry, includes insurance and background-check requirements that are less stringent than those sought by local governments.

HB 299, expands the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) to include Brevard County.

SB 368, designates 50 roads and bridges across the state. The measure names sections of Orange County roads after slain Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton and the late golf legend Arnold Palmer. In addition, a part of U.S. 441 in Miami-Dade County will be "Muhammad Ali Boulevard," and a portion of U.S. 90 in Santa Rosa County will honor Wendell Hall, who retired last year after 16 years as the county's sheriff.

HB 865, increases the allowed weight of natural gas-fueled vehicles from 80,000 pounds to 82,000 pounds, the maximum amount under federal law. The new law also directs the state Department of Transportation to study the economic feasibility of acquiring the Garcon Point Bridge from the Santa Rosa Bay Bridge Authority, and orders a study of the boundaries of the transportation department's seven districts to determine the cost of creating an additional district around Fort Myers.

HB 1169, designates part of a road in Pinellas County as "Officer Charles `Charlie K' Kondek, Jr., Memorial Highway," after a longtime Tarpon Springs police officer who was killed in the line of duty in 2014.

ENVIRONMENT

SB 1018, requires stepped-up public notification of pollution incidents. The law was spurred by controversies last year in response to the handling of a sinkhole at a Mosaic phosphate plant in Polk County and sewage discharges into Tampa Bay. Owners or operators of facilities responsible for pollution will have to submit reports within 24 hours to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The department, in turn, will be required to post the information online within 24 hours.

BOATING

HB 711, expands a registration-fee discount for boaters to purchase certain locator beacons. The discount was created last year in reaction to the disappearance of Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, two 14-year-olds from Tequesta, who went missing in July 2015 after steering a 19-foot boat out of the Jupiter Inlet into the Atlantic Ocean.

HB 7043, allows the owners of private submerged lands adjacent to Outstanding Florida Waters or an aquatic preserve to ask the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to establish boating-restricted areas solely to protect any seagrass and contiguous seagrass habitat within their private property.

STATE PARKS

HB 185, creates a 50 percent entry-fee discount to state parks for families operating a licensed family foster home, and a one-time, annual entrance pass for families that adopt a special needs child.

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