New year ushers in new laws in Florida

Published: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 10:45 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 10:45 a.m.
Getting rid of Florida's tax on stocks and other investment property was a high priority for Gov. Jeb Bush, who called it ''insidious.''
As Bush leaves the office of governor behind, the intangibles tax will be going away as well, the result of one of a handful of new laws that took effect Monday.
Lawmakers this year repealed what was left of the intangibles tax after scaling it back in previous years. While people with large investment holdings will benefit from that change, another group of Floridians - those living in nursing homes - also got some help in the form of more attention each day from nursing staff.
The average number of hours per day that nursing staff has to spend with each patient will go up, under legislation passed this year.
''It's one of the key provisions'' of lawmakers' efforts to improve care at the state's nursing homes, said Ed Towey, spokesman for the Florida Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes.
Also on Monday, motorcycle riders under age 21 have to have a different license plate than older riders. That's because a new law requires riders under 21 to wear a helmet - with a different license plate, police can tell who should be wearing one.
Other laws that go went into effect Monday include one that will let parents access their child's driving record online and one creating a ''Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys.''
Currently, if parents want to see their child's driving record, they have to request a copy be mailed to them, which costs money. Under the new law, parents won't have to pay to see their child's driving record online. Access to it ends on the driver's 18th birthday.
Another change, this one to the state constitution, went into effect Tuesday. Voters passed an amendment in November that bars governments from using eminent domain to take private property to make way for private development, such as a shopping center or new private housing.
While that change goes into the constitution Tuesday, it's a bit of a formality, because lawmakers also put the change into statute this year and the law is already in effect.
Also on Monday, Florida's minimum wage went to $6.67 an hour, although it's not the result of a law passed this year.
Florida's minimum wage was created in a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2004 and increases yearly based on inflation.
Several other minor changes took effect Monday, including a requirement that certain seaports revise their security plans based on quarterly risk assessments.
Monday was also the deadline for the state emergency agency to have completed an inventory of portable generators owned by state and local governments that are capable of operating during a major disaster.
When the intangibles tax comes out of the law, not many will notice. Only about 300,000 people pay the tax because exemptions have steadily increased since 1999. Only those individuals with more than $370,000 in taxable investments and couples with more than $620,000 in stock and bond holdings are still required to pay the tax.
Some of those who are supposed to pay it are thought to have been avoiding it anyway, moving their investment assets out of state.

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