After weeks of debates, infighting and deal-making, many of the bills of the Florida Legislature’s 2019 session become reality on Monday. That’s because July 1 is a common date when many bills take effect.
All in all, lawmakers passed 195 this year, roughly 10 percent of those filed. And in the nearly two months since the Legislature formally ended its annual session, Gov. Ron DeSantis has been signing (or in a few cases, vetoing) those bills that successfully made it through both the House and Senate. His pace quickened as July 1 approached, signing around 40 bills into law last week alone.
Here are some of the most noteworthy bills that are, as of Monday, the law of the land:
▪ State budget: Sets aside $90.9 billion for spending on education, healthcare, transportation, corrections, safety-net programs and other expenses. Includes an increase of $243 in per-pupil education spending. Keeps the state-funded tourism agency Visit Florida running through 2020 with $50 million for the next fiscal year. Shifts reimbursement funding to hospitals for Medicaid cases but without dramatic reductions to hospitals that take the most uninsured and under-insured patients. Sets aside $500,000 for a permanent memorial in honor of the 49 victims of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.
▪ Bright Futures: Raises the requirements for the merit-based Bright Futures scholarships. For students seeking an “Academic” scholarship, which covers full tuition and fees at state universities and colleges, the required SAT score would rise from 1290 to around 1330. For the second-tier “Medallion” award, which covers 75 percent of tuition and fees, the benchmark would climb from 1170 to about 1200.
▪ Amendment 4: Requires felons to pay restitution, fines and fees before they can register to vote after the passage of last year’s Amendment 4 ballot measure.
▪ Sanctuary cities: Prohibits local governments from not cooperating with federal officials, which would require local law enforcement to hold undocumented people at least 48 hours past their detainer sentences while awaiting federal authorities to pick them up for deportation. The enforcement mechanisms of this new law, such as giving the Florida attorney general the power to pursue civil action against governments that don’t cooperate, don’t take effect until Oct. 1.
▪ Texting: Makes driving while texting a primary offense, meaning law enforcement can stop motorists for just that offense.
▪ Drones, guard ages: Prohibits flying drones near detention centers while lowering the minimum ages of guards from 19 to 18.
▪ Women inmates: Requires correctional facilities to provide incarcerated women with feminine hygiene products, and also documentation of certain incidents involving male correctional facility employees.
▪ Referendum money: Requires school districts to share future local referendum money with charter schools.
▪ Schools of Hope: Expands the “Schools of Hope” program that lets charter schools open near consistently low-performing public schools. Allows charter school operators to open schools in “opportunity zones,” a term from President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax bill designed to boost investment in economically poor areas.
▪ Vouchers: Creates a scholarship program for private schools for families of four who make roughly $77,000 a year or less, using public money.
▪ Vegetable gardens: Prevents local governments from regulating residential vegetable gardens.
▪ Drug imports: Allows drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be imported into Florida by Canada and other countries.
▪ Firefighters: Provides certain benefits to firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer and benefits to the families of firefighters who die as a result of cancer or cancer treatment.
▪ Heart surgeries: Increases oversight of pediatric heart surgeries by letting teams of doctors make unannounced visits to struggling programs and review death records.
▪ Ride shares: Allows Uber, Lyft and other ride share services to provide non-emergency trips to the hospital for Medicaid patients.
▪ Human trafficking: Requires police, hotel employees and massage parlor workers to get training in how to look for signs of human trafficking.
▪ Vaping: Implements constitutional amendment that banned vaping in indoor workplaces.
▪ Toll roads: Extends the SunCoast Parkway from Tampa Bay to the Georgia border, a new corridor from Polk to Collier counties, and extends Florida’s Turnpike west to connect to the SunCoast.