Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
July 1, 2019
July 1 begins the state’s new fiscal year, and along with a new budget, 100 new also take effect that day. State legislators crafted these laws during the 2019 Legislative Session that recently ended, and Governor Ron DeSantis has signed them into law, along with a record $90.98 billion budget.
The budget includes assistance for Hurricane Michael recovery efforts and $685 million in funding for the Everglades and other water projects. A new law has established the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative and provides $3 million each year for five years to research this problem, which plagued state beaches last year.
The budget also includes a boost of $242 in per-student funding for public schools. Legislation has also provided a new school voucher program that will allow as many as 18,000 students to attend private schools this fall. This program is available to families of at least four with an annual household income of $77,000 or less.
The new laws cover a variety of topics ranging from texting while driving to front yard vegetable gardens and in many cases usurp what had previously been regarded as authority reserved for municipal governments and charter counties. A sampling is provided below:
Bright Futures Scholarships. Requirements for Bright Futures scholarships are more stringent. The “Academic” scholarship, covering tuition and fees entirely at state colleges and universities, will require a student’s SAT to be near 1330 instead of 1290. The “Medallion,” which covers 75 percent of the costs, would move to about 1200 from 1170.
Female inmates. This law requires state correctional facilities to provide incarcerated women with feminine hygiene products.
Front yard gardens. Local governments may no longer regulate homeowners’ fruit and vegetable gardens. This change apparently came about as a result of a legal challenge in Miami Shores.
Growing hemp. The state has allowed an agricultural hemp program to be developed.
Prescription drugs. Lower cost prescription drugs may now be imported from Canada and certain other countries.
Texting while driving. Police are now able to pull over drivers just for texting. In the past, motorists could only be cited if they were pulled over for other reasons. While the change takes effect today, it will be phased in, with warnings issued starting Oct. 1 and tickets starting to be issued Jan. 1.
Vaping. Nearly eight months after voters approved a constitutional amendment to ban vaping and use of electronic cigarettes in most indoor workplaces, a law (SB 7012) will take effect to carry out the amendment.