A law (HB 15) makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to protest within 500 feet of a funeral.
Besides being a first-degree misdemeanor to protest within 500 feet of a funeral, protests must halt during the period one hour before the services to one hour after the funeral or burial is completed.
The measure is a direct response to protests that have been held for several years at military funerals and other events to draw attention to the beliefs of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church.
Also, among the laws taking effect Oct. 1:
• Free speech: SB 50 guarantees members of the public the right to speak at public meetings.
While most government meetings in Florida must be open to the public, courts have found that, under current law, there is no guarantee that citizens get to speak at those meetings.
The measure exempts emergency meetings from the requirement and allows for time and decorum limits.
• Transportation: HB 487 creates a Freemasonry license plate, with most of the proceeds from the $25 annual fee going to the Masonic Home Endowment Fund. Presale of the plates starts Tuesday.
• Brands for boxes: Because of the increased costs of plastic, along with reports of increased thefts of plastic pallets and merchandise containers, HB 1393 allows those who own containers for storage and transportation of agricultural and commercial goods to adopt a mark or brand to signify ownership.
• Criminal justice:
SB 112: False documents. Strengthens penalties against filing false documents that are intended to defraud or harass others.
SB 338: Utility theft. The law imposes tougher penalties for electricity thieves. Rather than a first-degree misdemeanor, the penalty would vary depending on the value and services stolen, along with the criminal history of the accused.
HB 407: Gang prevention. The law makes it a second-degree felony to recruit or encourage anyone under 13 into a criminal gang. The law also increases from second-degree misdemeanor to first-degree misdemeanor trespassing charges for individuals previously convicted of gang related crimes in school safety zones. The law also allows judges, rather than juries, to factor gang membership into criminal sentencing.
HB 611: False information to law enforcement. Anyone who has previously been convicted of giving false information to a law enforcement officer will face a third-degree felony for repeating the offense verbally or in writing.
HB 691: Identification theft. The law makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to possess the personal identification information such as Social Security numbers, drivers licenses, passport information and credit card numbers of four or fewer people, and a third-degree felony to possess five or more. There are exemptions for parents, guardians and certain government employees.
HB 1173: Florida Communications Fraud Act. The law increases penalties for communications fraud, while setting a 5-year statute of limitations for the pursuit of civil and criminal actions against those who commit communications fraud.
• Schools: HB 113 tightens rules and makes it a third-degree felony for adults to post certain types of obscene or otherwise harmful materials to minors on school property. The material could be a picture, photograph, a drawing, sculpture, motion picture film, videocassette, or similar visual representation that depicts nudity or sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sexual battery, bestiality, or sadomasochistic abuse that could be considered harmful to minors.