New laws kick in on power plants, drones, cyberbullying, bongs

The state’s $74.1 billion budget, which will fund 114,481 positions, 3,955 more than in the current fiscal year, kicks in on Monday.

The fiscal package also includes the first raise those workers will see in seven years.

At the same time, nearly 200 new laws approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott hit the books. More than 50 bills still await action by Scott.

The bills already signed into law range from a limit on the law enforcement use of drones, to a bill spelling out how money is raised to build nuclear power plants to new rules for Citizens Property Insurance Corp. There also will be, come Monday, a crackdown on “cyberbullying,” conversion of low-speed vehicles into golf carts and a prohibition on the sale of bongs. A law against texting while driving (SB 52) doesn’t take effect until Oct. 1, while changes to campaign fundraising (HB 7013) go into place next year. Here are highlights of some bills taking effect Monday:


HB 21: Requires the Department of Education to conduct background screening for non-instructional contractors who will be on school grounds, and creates a statewide identification badge for the contractors.

HB 609: Cracks down on cyberbullying in public schools by expanding what school districts are allowed to punish at school and when children are not at school — if the non-school bullying affects education.

HB 801: Changes guidance counselors to certified school counselors.

SB 1664: Requires that at least 50 percent of a classroom teacher or school administrator’s performance evaluation be based on the growth or achievement of the students under their charge. The other half would be based on district-determined plans. Teachers with less than three years’ experience would only be judged on 40 percent of their students’ performance.


HB 55: Could help head off lawsuits alleging that auto dealers have engaged in deceptive and unfair practices by requiring customers to provide a demand letter before they can sue auto dealers. If dealers pay the claims and related surcharges within 30 days, they could not be sued.

SB 62: Allows street-legal, “low-speed vehicles” to be reclassified as golf carts, a move to reduce registration and insurance costs.

HB 7125: An omnibus transportation package that: prevents ticketing motorists as long as vehicles come to a stop, even after crossing the stop line, before making legal right turns on red; creates specialty license plates for the American Legion, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Lauren’s Kids, a program aimed at preventing sexual abuse of children; and bars left-lane drivers from going more than 10 mph below the speed limit if they know they are being overtaken from behind by faster-moving vehicles.


and banking

HB 157: Allows insurers to electronically transmit insurance policies to the insured.

HB 223: Lets property and casualty insurance policies and endorsements be made available on an insurer’s Internet website rather than being mailed, if agreed to by the customer.

SB 468: Exempts medical malpractice insurance from the state rate filing and approval process for some facilities and practitioners and continues the exemption of medical malpractice insurance from the CAT Fund assessment program.

SB 1770: The Citizens Property Insurance Corp. overhaul, less imposing than initially proposed, still prevents coverage for new homes in high-risk, environmentally sensitive coastal areas, creates an internal inspector general position, and a clearinghouse intended to shift at least 200,000 policies into the private market.


and agriculture

SB 336: Allows tourist development tax dollars to be used for the benefit of certain not-for-profit museums or aquariums.

SB 444: Requires six utilities in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to end the practice of dumping treated wastewater into the ocean by Dec. 31, 2025.

SB 674: Requires animal shelters and animal control agencies to keep more records on euthanasia and make them available to the public.

SB 948: Expands the role of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services with local utilities in water supply planning.

Law enforcement

HB 49: The “bong ban” prohibits the sale of metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic or ceramic smoking pipes, chillums or bongs.

SB 92: Restricts the use of unmanned aerial drones by law enforcement unless a judge issues a warrant, there is a “high risk of terrorist attack” or officials fear someone is in imminent danger.

HB 95: Declares that money given to charities by Ponzi schemers wouldn’t have to be later returned to victimized investors if it was accepted in good faith.

SB 390: Prohibits organizations from holding themselves out as veterans service organizations if they’re not.


SB 56: Replaces the concept of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) with Sudden Unexplained Infant Death, while altering requirements for training first responders and protocols for medical examiners.

SB 160: Requires the Department of Health to waive certain licensure fees for veterans.

HB 365: Allows pharmacists to offer certain types of complex drugs known as “biologics” for illnesses such as cancer.

SB 662: Allows doctors to charge 112.5 percent of drugs’ average wholesale prices — a measuring stick in the pharmaceutical industry — and $8 dispensing fees. Those amounts are higher than what pharmacies can charge for providing medications to  workers-compensation patients.

HB 1129: Intends to protect infants born alive after attempted abortions by requiring healthcare professionals to “humanely exercise the same degree of professional skill, care and diligence to preserve the life and health of the infant” as would be the case in a natural birth. It also requires that infants born alive after attempted abortions be immediately taken to hospitals.

SB 1844: Is intended to bolster the Florida Health Choices program, a long-planned online health marketplace, by increasing funding and eligibility standards.


HB 77: The “Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act” allows a landlord to accept partial rent without waiving the right to evict, clarifies that weekends and holidays do not stay a sheriff’s 24-hour eviction notice, and prohibits landlords from retaliating against a tenant who lawfully pays a landlord’s association dues or complains of a fair housing violation.

HB 217: Requires check-cashing companies to report checks worth $1,000 or more to a new state online database. The check-cashing database, intended to prevent workers’ compensation fraud, is not expected to be funded until 2014.

SB 342: Allows someone with a homestead exemption to rent their property out for 30 days without losing their homestead exemption.


SB 1792: The medical-malpractice bill requires that expert witnesses have the same specialties as the physicians who are defendants in medical-negligence cases.

HB 7015: Imposes the more-restrictive “Daubert” standards for admitting expert witness testimony in lawsuits, taking into account whether the expert testimony is “based upon sufficient facts or data;” whether it is the “product of reliable principles and methods”; and whether a witness has “applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.” The change will lead to Florida using the same standards that are used in federal courts.

HB 7083: The “Timely Justice Act” that is intended to reduce final delays in carrying out the death penalty. The measure includes several changes in the death-penalty process. As an example, the act requires the clerk of the Florida Supreme Court to notify the governor when a Death Row inmate’s state and federal court appeals have been completed. The governor would then have 30 days to issue a death warrant if the executive clemency process has finished. The warrant would require the execution be carried out within 180 days.


SB 1472: Establishes new benchmarks for electric utilities that want to collect controversial fees while planning nuclear-power plants. The measure alters a 2006 law intended to encourage more nuclear power. Florida Power & Light and the former Progress Energy Florida — now Duke Energy — have used the law to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in pre-construction nuclear fees.