TALLAHASSEE, FL – Limits on painkillers, restricted beach access and consequences for making threats on social media are some of the new Florida laws that will go into effect Sunday, July 1.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed 159 bills from the 2018 legislative session into law. Of those, 105 of them will take effect July 1. The remainder will become official in October or in 2019.
Here are the highlights of the laws that the state can enforce starting Sunday:
A new law intended to battle the spiraling epidemic of opioid addiction in Florida will limit most painkiller prescriptions for medications like Vicodin and OxyContin to a three-day supply. The exception is for people with acute chronic pain from cancer, terminal illnesses, palliative care and traumatic injuries.
The bill also calls for monitoring opioid prescriptions and integrating that information into the state’s data base to better keep an eye on doctors who may be over prescribing opioids or patients who shop around for opioid scripts.
One of the more controversial laws to be passed during the 2018 legislative session dealt with designating beaches public or private. (See related story).
In the past, Florida cities and counties could declare certain beaches to be open to the public under the state’s "customary use" doctrine. The new law puts that determination in the hands of the courts.
Advocates of public beaches are concerned because they think the new law will make it more difficult to open up Florida’s beaches (and main source of tourism) to the public.
Beachfront property owners are worried because they fear the waterfront property they paid dearly for could be designated public land.
This bill, by the way, has no impact on the beach sand below the mean high-water line. That has always been public and will continue to be public.
Protection From Bullies
If a child is chronically bullied at school, parents will now have the opportunity to obtain a voucher to send the child to a private school as part of the "Hope Scholarship Program."
The much-debated Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act requires every school in the state to have sworn law enforcement officers on campus along with threat assessment teams to evaluate if a student may pose a risk to other students.
Most of this law is already in effect following Scott’s signature on March 9 in the aftermath of the Feb. 14 Parkland school shooting.
But parts of the law have a Sunday deadline in keeping with Scott’s directive: "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."
School districts have found various ways to meet the mandate including forming school police forces, hiring private security and training existing personnel.
But many are still grappling with how to fund the mandate, maintaining that the Legislature’s additional allocation of $484 million statewide won’t cover the cost.
Social Media Threats
In the wake of the Parkland school shootings, Florida experienced a barrage of death threats by kids on social media platforms.
There have long been laws on the books against making written or verbal threats to commit a mass shooting or harm classmates. But the advent of social media has given people the ability to threaten large numbers of people from long distances with just a few strokes of their keyboard pads.
The new law makes it a second-degree felony to send threats "to conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism in any manner that would allow another person to view the threat" by email, social media or other electronic record.
Air-Conditioning For The Elderly
After 12 people died in a Hollywood nursing home when Hurricane Irma knocked out the power running the air-conditioning system, the Legislature passed a law mandating that all nursing facilities have backup generators.
On July 1, $168.6 million tax cut package goes into effect giving breaks to nursing homes that are purchasing generators to comply with the new rule requiring emergency power in long-term care facilities.
The package also includes property tax relief for homeowners who were forced to move because of Hurricane Irma, repair costs for agricultural damage due to Hurricane Irma and the elimination of taxes on hurricane readiness supplies purchased in June.
Yes To Israel, No To Venezuela
Two measures would forbid state or local government contracts with companies boycotting Israel and state agency investments in companies that are involved in business with Venezuela.
The prohibition against doing business with the government of Venezuela is intended to put pressure on the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Starting July 1, teens under the age of 18 won’t be able to marry without their parents’ consent. This bill is aimed at reducing child marriages as well as the ability of an adult to marry a minor. Anyone age 17 and under won’t be able to marry someone more than two years older.
Blocking Phone Calls
This bill is also referred to as the "Florida Call-Blocking Act." It authorizes telecommunication providers to block certain calls; prohibits blocking of certain calls; and authorizes telecommunication providers to rely upon caller identification service information to determine originating numbers for purpose of blocking such calls.
As of July 1, Florida’s state heritage cattle breed will be the Florida Cracker Cattle.
This bill declares war on two nonnative species, tegu lizards and red lionfish, that have been introduced into the Florida environment and are threatening the survival of native species. The law requires the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to establish a pilot program for the capture and disposal of tegu and lionfish.
Saving Money On Prescriptions
To help residents save money on life-saving drugs, the state has passed a law requiring pharmacists to inform customers of a less expensive, generically equivalent drug option and whether the cost-sharing obligation to the customer exceeds the retail price of the prescription in the absence of prescription drug coverage.
Credit Through Apprenticeships
This law authorizes students to use credit earned upon completion of approved apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship programs to satisfy specified high school graduation requirements.
Protecting Jailed Parents
This law requires the Florida Department of Children and Families to include parents who are incarcerated in development of case plans for their children.
Deployed Parental Custody
This creates a provision called the "Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act" to protect the parental rights of those who have been deployed in the service.
College Fee Waivers
This gives Florida colleges and universities the option of waiving any portion of the student activity and service fee, the financial aid fee, the technology fee, the capital improvement fee, etc., for active members of the military.
Daylight Saving Time
Although Scott signed the Daylight Saving Time act, it is currently still hung up in Congress and will not be taking effect on July 1. The measure seeks to place Florida on year-round daylight-saving time. The change is intended to help Florida tourism.
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