Bills that passed the 2017 legislative session include:
CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES Drug dealers who distribute fentanyl, an opioid painkiller 100 times more powerful than morphine, in which a customer dies from an overdose will be charged with murder. A trafficking charge would also be allowed for possession of four grams of the drug. Fentanyl abuse has significantly increased as dealers use it to cut heroin or sell it as heroin.
RENEWABLE ENERGY DEVICES Beginning in January, 2018 eighty percent of the value of installed solar and renewable energy devices will be exempt from property tax assessments for twenty years.
TRANSPORTATION It was not a productive Session with regard to transportation bills. Of the 157 total bills related to transportation, only 4 were approved and will be sent to the Governor for action. The bills that passed concerned transportation network companies (Uber, Lyft), vessel registrations, the Department of Transportation package, and expressway authorities.
The DOT package includes the directive for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to develop a Florida Smart City Challenge Grant Program to encourage emerging technologies; doubling the threshold for “fast response” contracts to $250,000; allowing turnpike bonds to be validated by the Division of Bond Finance; eliminating the Florida Highway Beautification Council; and prohibiting the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority from entering into contracts with FDOT’s approval if such contract may be funded with Department funds, among others.
BITCOINS In a nod to the ever changing technological world, the Legislature passed a bill which will bring bitcoins into the statutes that govern banking. Prosecutors will now be able to charge defendants with money laundering should they use the virtual currency for criminal gain.
DRONES Keeping up with recent innovation, the Legislature approved a bill which codifies the use of drones. Drones will be able to operate on sidewalks and crosswalks throughout the state under the measure. Local governments will have the power to enact ordinances governing illegal activity performed by drones, and operators must adhere to all federal statutes and regulations regarding their use.
ELECTRONIC WILLS The Florida Electronic Wills Act allows for the use of electronic wills and modifies the Florida Trust Code to protect the trust’s intent; compensates co-trustees in an aggregate manner; expands trustee’s ability to designate principal in other trusts; and addresses when beneficiaries must take action if a trust accounting is not given.
ELECTIONS Supervisors of Elections must notify voters if their signatures on their mailed-in ballots do not match their registration forms. The elector will now be able to confirm their identity by showing a current and valid photo ID. A more comprehensive elections bill sponsored by Representative Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast) died in the Senate.
LOTTERY WARNINGS Warnings such as “Gambling can cause financial problems,” “Lottery games are a form of gambling,” “Your odds of winning the top prize are extremely low,” or “Warning, gambling may be addictive,” will appear on lotto, scratch-off and other games starting January 1, 2018, if Governor Scott signs the bill into law.
DOZIER SCHOOL FOR BOYS After years of discussion and little action, the Legislature passed a resolution officially apologizing to the boys, both living and dead, who endured decades of abuse at the closed Dozier School for Boys located in Marianna. Legislation was also passed which would create two memorials, one at the school site and the other in Tallahassee, to remember the victims. Unclaimed remains will also receive burials at a site to be determined in Tallahassee.
GROVELAND FOUR The Legislature passed a concurrent resolution acknowledging the grave injustices against the Groveland Four (Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd and Ernest Thomas). The four African Americans were falsely accused of the rape of a white woman in Orange County in 1948. One was killed by a pursuing posse, two others were shot by the Lake County Sheriff and the minor was sentenced to life in prison. The Legislature apologized posthumously to the four men and their families, and urged the Governor and Cabinet to expedite their clemency reviews.