Thursday, June 21, 2018
Politics

130 new laws will take effect in Florida July 1

TALLAHASSEE — The state's record-setting budget goes into effect on Wednesday, along with 130 other new laws that were produced by the Legislature this year in the regular and special sessions and signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Starting Wednesday, the state will no long collect sales tax on gun club memberships, people with 64-ounce beer containers known as "growlers" can get them filled at breweries, and governments in Florida will have to start looking to buy American-made U.S. flags.

Lawmakers also decided that the state's decades-old ban on gay adoption will no longer be in statutes, children can secretly record sexual abusers and law enforcement agencies can't require officers to issue any preset number of tickets.

One of the new laws was overturned following a challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Under an order by Chief Judge Charles Francis Tuesday, abortions will not be subject to the 24-hour waiting period, a restriction the ACLU says is unconstitutional.

For the year, lawmakers sent 239 bills to Scott during the regular and special sessions. He vetoed seven and signed the rest.

A number of the new laws make technical changes to state statutes or have ties to the $78.2 billion spending plan.

Sixty-three of the laws approved by the Legislature went into effect immediately upon Scott's signature. Among those proposals, people without conceal-carry permits can now pocket their weapons when forced to leave home because of hurricanes and other disasters (SB 290); current and past members of the U.S. armed forces, reserves or National Guard since Sept. 11, 2001, can ask to have their home and personal information exempt from state public record (HB 185); rural letter carriers can drive without a seat belt while working their route (SB 160); and there will be fewer tests given to public-school students (HB 7069).

Here are highlights of the laws taking effect July 1:

Tax cuts

HB 33A, a product that required the special session to fully snap together.

The wide-ranging package came in lower than what the House and Gov. Rick Scott wanted, but still clocks in at $372.4 million in the next fiscal year.

There are tax cuts on the cost of gun club memberships, college textbooks, luxury boat repairs, certain agricultural supplies and services, school extracurricular fundraisers, aviation fuel at select flight-training academies, and on motor vehicles purchased overseas by internationally deployed service members from Florida.

For many Floridians, the most noticeable item will be a reduction in the communications-services tax on cell-phone and cable-TV bills. The savings are projected at $20 a year for people paying $100 a month for the services.

Another notable feature is the 10-day sales-tax holiday starting Aug. 7 on clothing under $100, school supplies that cost $15 or less and the first $750 of personal computers purchased for non-commercial use.

Abortion

Before Judge Francis' ruling on Tuesday, HB 633, would have required a 24-hour waiting period before women can have abortions. Under the law, information about abortions would have to be provided in person to the women at least 24 hours before a procedure is performed. There were exceptions for victims of rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking — but those victims coulc waive the 24-hour wait only if they can produce police reports, restraining orders, medical records or other documentation.

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office has appealed Tuesday's ruling to a higher court.

Adoption

HB 7013, provides $5,000 payments to government workers who adopt foster children, with the payments increasing to $10,000 for adoptions of children with special needs. The measure also repeals the state's decades-old ban on gay adoption.

Military

• HB 27, requires the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to accept a military personnel identification card as proof of a social security card number during the application process to acquire a driver license or identification card.

• HB 277, ensures young service members are able to rent hotel rooms in Florida. Some hotels and other lodging establishments have minimum age requirements. The law requires hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast inns to waive age restrictions for active-duty service members with valid military identification cards.

• HB 329, creates Woman Veteran, World War II Veteran, Navy Submariner, Combat Action Badge Ribbon, Air Force Combat Action Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross license plates.

• HB 801, adds a memorial in the Capitol Complex to 241 members of the U.S. military killed Oct. 23, 1983, when a truck carrying 2,000 pounds of explosives drove into a headquarters and barracks area in Beirut, Lebanon.

Patriotism

HB 225, the "All-American Flag Act." While the law goes into effect July 1, the law requires U.S. and Florida flags purchased by governments in Florida after Jan. 1, 2016, to be made from materials grown, produced and manufactured in the United States.

Education

HB 41, known as "Gabby's Law for Student Safety," revises how "hazardous walking conditions" are identified and handled. The law allows school district superintendents to make formal requests to the government agencies with jurisdiction over roads to correct the hazards. The government agencies would have to include the work in their next annual five-year capital improvements programs or declare why the corrections aren't being planned.

Law enforcement

• SB 264, makes it clear local law-enforcement agencies cannot use ticket quotas. Also, the law requires individual local governments to submit reports to the Legislature if traffic-ticket revenues cover more than 33 percent of the costs of operating their police departments. The proposal is a reaction to the speed trap that was nestled along U.S. 301 in the small North Florida city of Waldo.

• HB 7001, allows children under 18 to secretly record conversations related to sexual abuse or other violent acts. The proposal stemmed from a Florida Supreme Court decision last year that ordered a new trial for a Lee County man who had been sentenced to life in prison for sexually abusing his stepdaughter.

• HB 133, dubbed the "43 Days Initiative Act." The law extends the statute of limitation on felony sexual battery offenses from four years to 10 years. The title of the law is tied to a sexual offense victim who reported the crime four years and 43 days after the crime, which meant that no charges could be brought against the offender.

Drones

SB 766, prohibits the use of aerial drones to capture images that could infringe on the privacy of property owners or occupants. The law allows people to initiate a civil action against a person, state agency or political subdivision that violates the prohibitions. However, the prohibition doesn't include agencies countering the risk of terrorist attacks, police who obtain search warrants that authorize the use of drones, property appraisers making tax assessments, and utilities maintaining their facilities.

Entertainment

• HB 641, clears up confusion created by a 2013 law that shut down Internet cafes. This year's law is intended to make it clear that amusement games can continue operating at businesses such as Dave & Buster's and Chuck E. Cheese's.

• HB 239, regulates the use of certain drugs in racing horses and greyhound dogs. The law also hikes the maximum fine when a racing animal tests positive for a prohibited substance from $5,000 to $10,000, or the amount of the purse if it's greater.

Alcohol

• SB 186, ends the state's prohibition on brewers being able to fill 64-ounce beer containers known as "growlers" for off-site consumption. The law limits cup sizes to 3.5 ounces for beer tastings and caps the number of vendor licenses that can be issued to a brewer. The law ends the use of the tourism exemption for on-site alcohol sales that brewers have been operating under since 1963.

• SB 596, allows craft distillers to annually sell up to two factory-sealed bottles of each product directly to each customer visiting the property.

Utilities

HB 7109, limits future Public Service Commissioners to three consecutive four-year terms. The law also requires utilities to notify customers of the best available rates and prevents electric utilities from charging higher rates through extensions of billing cycles — a provision directed at Duke Energy.

Medical

HB 269, allows terminally ill patients to access certain experimental drugs. Dubbed the "Right to Try Act," the law focuses on drugs that have been through what is known as "phase 1" of a clinical trial but have not been approved for general use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The law also provides liability protections to doctors and drug manufacturers.

State investments

SB 7024, repeals a restriction on the State Board of Administration from investing money from the Florida Retirement System Trust Fund in institutions doing business in or with Northern Ireland. The restriction was imposed by the Florida Legislature in 1988.

Insurance

• HB 715, removes a restriction that prevents newly-constructed or substantially-improved structures seaward of the coastal construction control line or within the Coastal Barrier Resources System from qualifying for coverage from the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.

• HB 4011, repeals a law capping at four the number of vehicles that can be covered by a single family insurance policy.

• SB 1094, intended to provide flexible insurance options for flood coverage.

Public records

• SB 7040, provides an exemption to email addresses that the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles collects related to driver's licenses and motor-vehicle records.

• SB 200, exempts taxpayers' email addresses obtained by tax collectors in the process of sending tax notices.

• SB 248, creates a public-records exemption for certain videos made by police body cameras. The exemption would apply to videos made on private property without the approval of a property owner or individual.

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