Come Sunday, more than 100 new laws will go into effect in Florida ranging from a ban on child marriage to a controversial law limiting local governments on allowing beach access.
The July 1 deadline marks the beginning of the state’s fiscal year and its largest budget ever but also marks when the majority of the 193 bills passed by the Legislature — and not vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott — go into force. About a quarter of the bills passed have already taken effect, and the remainder kick in either in October or at the beginning of next year.
Chief among those new laws is the $88.7 billion budget, most of which goes toward health care and human services or education, the two largest costs borne by the state. The budget includes a $900 million increase for additional Medicaid costs and nearly $130 million added to Medicaid funding for nursing homes. The budget — in part due to the gun control and school safety law passed after the Parkland shooting — also includes $485 million more in funding for public school districts, though advocates have contended they will see only an average 47-cent per-student increase in general operation spending because of earmarks for other funding categories. The budget also sets aside about $100 million for the Florida Forever program for land conservation.
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A $168.6 million tax cut package includes some breaks for nursing homes that are purchasing generators to comply with a new rule requiring emergency power in long-term care facilities, property tax relief for homeowners who were forced to move because of Hurricane Irma and repair costs for agricultural damage . The tax cut package also includes a back-to-school tax holiday in August on some clothing and school supplies as well as retroactive funding for a hurricane tax holiday in June.
Among the legislation that has already gone into effect is the sweeping Parkland bill that legislators narrowly compromised on and was signed by Scott in March. But portions of the law have deadlines Sunday, per a directive from Scott’s office: Superintendents must designate a school safety specialist and school boards are expected to know how many people they intend to train in a voluntary but controversial guardian program that authorizes some trained personnel to carry guns.
Some of the other laws that take effect this weekend:
- A signature education law which creates a voucher-like scholarship for students bullied in public school to help pay for private school tuition, as well as a separate scholarship to assist students with disabilities. It allows for millions collected by certain taxes to fund those scholarships and mandates teachers’ unions have half of all eligible members pay dues.
- A bill to curb the opioid epidemic by setting limits on the length of prescriptions doctors can write for Schedule II opioids for acute pain. The typical three-day limit on prescriptions would exempt patients with cancer, terminal illness or traumatic injuries and those receiving palliative care, and “medically necessary” prescriptions could also be extended to a week. The bill also updates the drug monitoring program to integrate with state systems like patient records.
- A controversial law regarding beach access would also make it more difficult for local governments to allow the public to continue entering privately owned beaches. Though the only beach access ordinance that is being explicitly overruled is in the Panhandle’s Walton County, the law would forbid local governments from passing ordinances that would have preserved beachgoers’ access to private beach property if the area has traditionally been open to the public. The state has estimated about 60 percent of its beach property is privately owned. Land below the mean high water line — where the sand gets wet — is public.
- A bill that bars those under the age of 18 from being married in Florida to prevent child marriage. It includes narrow exceptions for 17-year-olds whose parents or guardians offer written consent and whose partners are no more than two years older.
- Two measures would forbid state or local government contracts with companies boycotting Israel, or state agency investments in companies that are involved in business with Venezuela.
- Another two laws regarding statues and memorials — one in Tallahassee and one in D.C. — will also take effect. One approves the construction of a memorial recognizing victims of slavery on the Florida State Capitol premises, and the other authorizes replacing a statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith with civil rights leader and teacher Mary McLeod Bethune in the National Statuary Hall. The Smith statue will be moved to a museum in Lake County.