TALLAHASSEE --- More than 100 new laws will hit the books Wednesday from the 2020 legislative session, with issues ranging from expanding school vouchers to increasing fines for bear poaching.
Out of 156 bills Gov. Ron DeSantis had signed into law as of Tuesday afternoon, 112, including the state’s new $92.2 billion budget, will take effect Wednesday, the start of the state’s fiscal year.
Other measures, such as a bill (SB 140) that will help clear the way for people to legally set off fireworks on July 4, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, took effect immediately after being signed by DeSantis, or shortly thereafter.
Among the bills taking effect Wednesday:
BUDGET AND TAXES
--- HB 5001: The record $92.2 billion budget increases public-school funding by $137 per student and provides 3 percent pay raises for state workers. Also, it includes $500 million to increase teacher salaries, $625 million for the Everglades and other water-related projects and $100 million for the Florida Forever conservation program.
--- HB 7097: A $47 million tax package includes a pair of sales-tax “holidays,” with back-to-school shoppers able to avoid paying sales taxes from Aug. 7 through Aug. 9 on clothes costing $60 or less, school supplies costing $15 or less and on the first $1,000 of the cost of personal computers. The bill also includes a disaster-preparedness tax holiday that was held around the June 1 start of hurricane season.
--- HB 7067: Lawmakers took a series of steps to increase school choice, including dramatically expanding the Family Empowerment Scholarship voucher program. The program, which was created last year, provided 17,724 vouchers as of February --- a number that will be able to jump to more than 46,600 during the 2020-2021 academic year.
--- HB 641: Coupled with $500 million in the budget, the bill sets the stage for public-school teachers to get pay raises. It also eliminates the controversial Best and Brightest teacher bonus program.
--- HB 1213: The bill will lead to public-school students learning about the 1920 Ocoee Election Day riot that involved attacks on Black residents and requires the Department of Education to develop standards and curriculum for teaching the history of the Holocaust.
--- HB 7011: The Florida High School Athletic Association will be required to take a series of steps to protect high school athletes from suffering heat strokes. For example, the association will have to establish requirements for “cooling zones,” which could include such things as cold-water immersion tubs.
--- HB 389: Pharmacists will be able to play an expanded role in providing health care to patients. In part, they will be able to enter “collaborative” agreements with physicians to treat patients for chronic illnesses, such as arthritis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, Type 2 diabetes, HIV, AIDS and obesity. Rules still need to be finalized to carry out the bill.
--- HB 607: Advanced practice registered nurses will have authority to practice independently of physicians, a top of priority of the legislative session for House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes.
--- SB 1344: The bill will help clear the way for building new “intermediate care” facilities for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
--- SB 698: Health-care providers will not be able to conduct pelvic exams on women without written consent. The measure also seeks to prevent misconduct by doctors who provide fertility treatment.
--- HB 743: The bill revises a 2019 law meant to crack down on opioid abuse by allowing health care practitioners to discuss non-opioid alternatives with patients’ representatives rather than just the patients. The measure also requires practitioners to provide people with a state-published pamphlet on opioids.
--- SB 172: Lawmakers moved to block Key West and other local governments from imposing bans on certain types of sunscreens that contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. Key West approved such a ban because of concerns that the chemicals could damage coral reefs.
--- SB 712: Dubbed the “Clean Waterways Act,” the bill sets new rules for septic tanks, increases fines for environmental violations and imposes requirements on agricultural fertilizer.
--- HB 1061: Lawmakers created the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve, which is aimed at protecting about 400,000 acres of sea grass habitat along Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties. The protections will include restrictions on such things as dredging, seawall construction and sale of submerged lands.
--- HB 327: People who poach Florida black bears during a closed season will face increased penalties. Poaching stems, at least in part, from the animals being killed for their gallbladders. Bear bile, secreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, can bring in hundreds or thousands of dollars on the black market, where it is promoted as a cure for numerous ills.
--- HB 659: Non-law enforcement employees of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be allowed to operate aerial drones for eradication efforts of invasive plants and animals on public lands, and the Florida Forest Service will be able to use drones to mitigate the threat of wildfires on public lands.
SB 664: All government employers --- such as local schools, public universities and state agencies --- and their contractors will be required to use a federal electronic system, known as E-Verify, to check the immigration status of new workers.
--- HB 969: Under the measure, up to $5 million a year will be set aside for Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise to develop broadband infrastructure as part of projects to spur new or expanded toll roads from Collier County to the Georgia border.
--- SB 7018: The Florida Department of Transportation will plan and build staging areas for emergency response along the turnpike system, with a priority in “counties with a population of 200,000 or less in which a multi-use corridor of regional significance is located.” Such multi-use corridors are new or extended toll roads backed last year by the Legislature The measure also requires the Public Service Commission to work with the transportation department and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, to develop electric vehicle charging stations along state highways.
--- HB 971: Electric bicycles will be regulated in the same manner as pedal-powered bicycles, instead of as motorized vehicles.
--- HB 199: A statute of limitations will be eliminated in sexual battery cases when the victims are younger than 18 at the time the crimes occurred.
--- SB 1392: District court of appeal judges who live more than 50 miles from their courts will be allowed to have “alternative headquarters.” The measure also will allow the judges to be reimbursed for travel between the locations.