TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) - An overhaul of high school graduation
standards, an attempt to ban bongs, and additional restrictions on
abortion are on a long list of new Florida laws that take effect Monday.
A measure that critics contend will speed up executions in Florida also
is scheduled to take effect, although the Timely Justice Act has already
sparked a legal challenge.
More than 150 new laws passed by the Florida Legislature and signed into
law by Gov. Rick Scott take effect Monday. They include the state's
$74.1 billion budget, with $480 million that legislators set aside for
teacher pay raises.
"I'm very proud of the budget that the Legislature passed this session.
Public education and environmental protection were the big winners,"
said Sen. Joe Negron, the Appropriations Committee Chairman. "I'm
particularly happy that we're rewarding good teachers who give it their
all in the classroom every day."
An abortion measure will require medical care for newborns who survive
botched procedures. It penalizes providers who don't have medical care
for infants born alive despite attempted abortions.
An attempt to snuff out bongs also becomes law, although there are
questions as to how effective it will be. The measure will make it
illegal for shops to "knowingly and willfully" sell the pipes for use to
consume illegal drugs.
New high school graduation standards will revise requirements put in
place just three years earlier. The new law removes requirements to pass
Algebra II and end-of-course exams in geometry and biology to earn
diploma. Students instead will be allowed to take career education
courses or enroll in work-related internships to earn a diploma.
Floridians who rent will also be subject to changes that could make it
easier for landlords to evict them. Under the new law, a tenant could
pay partial rent and still be evicted within days if they fail to turn
over the rest of the money. The measure also allows a landlord to evict a
tenant if a person breaks rules twice in one year. Those rules can
include parking in the wrong spot or having an unauthorized pet.
Local law enforcement will be limited in their ability to use
remotely-controlled aircraft known as drones under another new law that
takes effect. The measure restricts the use of drones to the prevention
of imminent danger to life - a kidnapping or a missing child - or
serious damage to property.
It also makes police get search warrants before using drones to collect
evidence. An exception would be a credible threat of a terrorist attack.
Only a handful of law enforcement agencies in Florida are currently
licensed by the federal government to fly drones.
An attempt by state lawmakers to overhaul Florida's capital punishment
process has already drawn a legal challenge that contends the new
measure violates due process rights for death row inmates.
The Timely Justice Act of 2013 creates tighter timeframes for appeals
and post-conviction motions, and it imposes reporting requirements on
case progress. It also re-establishes a separate agency for north
Florida to provide appellate-level legal representation to inmates
sentenced to death and requires them to "pursue all possible remedies in
The Scott administration has disputed arguments that the new law will
"speed up executions." Instead the governor's office says the changes
will bring clarity to the system and will make it more transparent by
requiring official notification when an inmate has exhausted appeals.
Mark Schlakman, senior program director for Florida State University's
Center for Advancement of Human Rights, agreed that the bill doesn't
necessarily speed up executions, but he said many still have that
impression because of the tough, pro-death penalty talk bill sponsor
Rep. Matt Gaetz used when arguing for it.
"If you read the bill, it just doesn't on the face of it do everything
that it's been reported to have done," Schlakman said. "There's been
substantial confusion surrounding the bill. The sponsor's rhetoric
really has fueled that."
He also said if the intent was to fix problems with the death penalty,
it likely won't work, especially since some provisions will likely get
thrown out in court.