Governor signs liability, tomato bills into law
Businesses such as theme parks and go-cart tracks that offer potentially dangerous fun will regain liability protection for injuries to children that they lost due to a court ruling. Gov. Charlie Crist on Tuesday signed into law SB 2440 to allow parents to sign the waivers. The Florida Supreme Court two years ago invalidated the waivers because the state didn't have a law allowing them. It does now. The law went into effect immediately with Crist's signature. Crist also signed SB 206 to raise limits on liability verdicts and settlements against the state or local governments from $100,000 to $200,000 per person and from $200,000 to $300,000 per incident. Legislative approval is required for higher amounts. Another new law Crist signed (SB 350) will set safety standards for tomatoes and authorizes the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to inspect farms, greenhouses and packing facilities.
Renewable energy bill clears House
The House passed its renewable energy bill 83-34, after a quorum call and a phone call to the offices of two legislators to make sure they showed up for the vote. Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Winter Garden, asked his colleagues to vote for HB 7229 as a "personal favor to me." He called it a reasonable bill that implements renewable energy in a "targeted and measured manner" and controls the costs by capping how much the utility companies can spend. "If you believe in improving energy security in this state, and creating jobs in a growing tech sector, and doing it in the controlled manner that we can revisit in another five years, this is good policy," he said. "It may be cliche, but we don't want the perfect to become the enemy of the good that's in this bill." It now heads to the Senate for a vote.
Civil rights hall gets approval
Legislation that would create a Civil Rights Hall of Fame exhibit in the Capitol headed to Gov. Crist's desk Tuesday after passage in the Senate. HB 523, sponsored by Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville, calls for the members of the Hall of Fame to be nominated by the Florida Commission on Human Relations and selected by the governor.
Sansom thanked in farewell speeches
Members of the House's "senior class" are giving farewell speeches this week. Beyond the abhorrent length of the goodbye remarks, it's interesting to note one name that keeps getting mentioned: indicted former Speaker Ray Sansom, R-Destin. Sansom, who was speaker for less than three months, resigned his seat earlier this year under the weight of a criminal probe and ethics complaint into his budget projects. The criminal indictment of Sansom condemned the legislative process as a whole for its secrecy and the influence of special interests. Reps. Juan Zapata, Mary Bradenburg and Baxter Troutman all thanked Sansom for his leadership and friendship. It's striking given that most House members were reluctant to defend Sansom as the criminal investigation unfolded. On Tuesday, Troutman, a Winter Haven Republican, called the Sansom scandal an "unnecessary witch hunt."
Times/Herald staff writers Mary Ellen Klas and John Frank; Associated Press; News Service of Florida