New Florida laws taking effect cover everything from loans to bongs
Published: Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 5:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, July 1, 2013 at 11:32 a.m.
TALLAHASSEE — Floridians face changes in their lives Monday as wide-ranging laws — leading to more costly loans, changes in the way tenants can be evicted from rentals, revisions to protections for car buyers and other consumer impacts — take effect.
New laws that will take effect Monday in Florida
Florida lawmakers considered more than 1,800 bills and resolutions in their 2013 session. In the end, 283 were passed. By late last week, Gov. Rick Scott had vetoed eight of the bills, with all but a handful pending. Once approved by the governor, some of the bills become laws immediately, while others will wait until this fall or 2014. Here are some of the new laws that take effect Monday:
PAY RAISES FOR STATE WORKERS
A new $74 billion state budget (SB 1500) becomes law, containing the first general pay raises for state workers since 2006 and the potential for pay raises up to $3,500 for teachers. The state worker pay raise doesn't take effect until October, while teacher salaries will be negotiated in each district. The budget also contains more than $1 billion in new funding for public schools, as well as a significant increase for state universities and colleges.
NO MORE BLUE BUNNIES
An animal-cruelty law (HB 851) banning the dyeing of baby rabbits and chicks takes effect. The law also increases the potential penalties for those involved in animal fighting and baiting and those who commit multiple acts of animal cruelty.
FLORIDA: A DRONE-FREE ZONE
Largely at the instigation of Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, a new law (SB 92) will limit the use of drones by Florida law enforcement agencies. Drones can only be used in situations where they could prevent “imminent danger” to life or serious property damage. Law enforcement officers would also have to obtain a search warrant to use drones to collect evidence.
RED-LIGHT CAMERAS AND SLOW DRIVERS
Florida drivers will no longer face tickets at intersections with red-light cameras if they come to a complete stop before making a right-hand turn. The law (HB 7125) will increase the time motorists have to deal with the initial notice of violation from 30 days to 60 days. Another provision will penalize drivers who travel more than 10 mph below the speed limit in the left lane on multiple-lane highways.
BONGS ARE BANNED
A law (HB 49) bans the sale of various pipes, hookahs and bongs that could be for drug use. It makes the sale of the drug paraphernalia a first-degree misdemeanor. Subsequent violations could jump to a third-degree felony.
LIQUOR LAW CHANGES
Craft distilleries will be able to sell their products to consumers at their facilities for off-premises consumption. The provision (HB 347) is limited to distillers who produce 75,000 gallons or less of their product a year.
Another law (HB 623) allows the sale of wine in reusable canisters of more than five gallons. The larger containers can be used by bars and restaurants to dispense wine while keeping it fresh and removes the current limit of one gallon for wine containers.
HIGH-SPEED GOLF CARTS
A law (SB 62) will allow the owners of faster golf carts — known as “low-speed vehicles” — to convert the vehicles to lower-speed carts, thus avoiding insurance and registration fees that are required for the low-speed vehicles. The law was pushed by legislators representing The Villages.
LET KIDS BE KIDS
A law (HB 215) sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, will lift many of the restrictions on the everyday activities of foster children, allowing them to participate in things like sports events and field trips. Foster parents will be able to make decisions using a “reasonable and prudent” parenting standard.
A law (SB 1076) that impacts all levels of Florida education, from high schools to state universities, takes effect Monday. Among its many provisions, it revamps K-12 graduation standards, allowing students to earn a diploma without taking algebra II. It creates standards for pre-eminent state universities. It designates the University of Florida to create an online bachelor's degree program. It gives state colleges more flexibility in creating bachelor's degrees that can be earned for $10,000 or less in tuition.
More than 160 bills passed by the 2013 Legislature will become law Monday, representing nearly 60 percent of the 283 bills passed in the annual session.
One law will keep Florida skies largely drone-free. Cities and counties will be blocked from requiring private businesses to pay workers for sick leave. Floridians with intellectual disabilities will no longer fall under the state classification of “mental retardation.”
Head shops will not be able to sell bongs. And Floridians will be banned from dyeing baby rabbits and chicks. The state will lift many restrictions on the daily lives of foster children.
Across Florida, state government workers will be in line for their first general pay raise since 2006, although it won't take place until Oct. 1.
The highest-performing public school teachers could earn a raise of up to $3,500, with many other teachers in line for a $2,500 increase. But the pay plans must be negotiated by each district.
Floridians could also feel the impact of the new laws if they seek a consumer finance loan beginning Monday. A new law increases from $2,000 to $3,000 the amount of the loan that finance companies can charge up to 30 percent in interest.
Consumer finance loans are defined as loans up to $25,000 for which companies can charge 18 percent or more in interest.
Consumer groups opposed two other laws that are taking effect, including a provision that will impact the nearly 6 million Floridians who rent apartments or homes.
The new landlord tenant law makes a number of changes in the rental laws, with the consumer groups objecting to the ability of landlords to evict renters even if they have made a partial rent payment.
The law also removes the requirement that renters receive at least two notices of a pending eviction for minor lease violations, such as parking a vehicle in the wrong spot or hanging laundry on a balcony.
It also removes a prior restriction on sheriff's deputies helping remove evicted renters on weekends and holidays.
The Florida Consumer Action Network (FCAN), which had urged Gov. Rick Scott to veto the bill, said the law represented an “erosion of crucial tenant protections.” It was joined in opposition to the measure by other groups, including the NAACP and the Florida Justice Institute.
FCAN also opposed another new law that changes consumer protections for car and truck buyers. It makes changes to the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act that the consumer group said will make it more difficult for car buyers to deal with questionable vehicle sales.
The consumer group said the law “adds a confusing layer of red tape by imposing numerous and detailed requirements, most of which will be incomprehensible to the average consumer,” including legal notification requirements that unhappy car buyers will have to deal with if they have a complaint.
Car dealers had successfully pushed for the legislation with the new notification requirements, arguing that consumers often complain to sales personnel but they don't hear about the complaints until a lawsuit is filed.
Business groups backed a new law that will prevent city and county governments from passing local ordinances requiring paid sick leave. Labor groups had urged Scott to veto the bill.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce and other groups also backed two other laws that will revamp the way expert witnesses are used in lawsuits and changes procedures in medical negligence lawsuits.
Another law touches on the controversial issue of abortion. It requires doctors to treat babies born alive during an abortion procedure like a child born during a natural birth. The bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously.
There was also unanimous support for a new law that eliminates the “R-word.” It officially substitutes the term “intellectual disability” for “mental retardation” in various state laws, rules and procedures.
A number of new laws won't become effective until later this year or in 2014.
Among them is the ban on texting and driving that won't become a law until Oct. 1. Also if you're waiting to buy a “Freemasonry” specialty license tag for your car, you're going to have to wait until October.