Legislation Approved by the Governor

To date, the Governor has signed two hundred seventy-two bills into law and has vetoed eleven.

After passage by the Legislature, a bill must be signed by the presiding officers and presented to the Governor.  The Governor then has fifteen days to either (1) sign the bill into law, (2) let the time lapse and have the bill become law without his signature, or (3) veto the bill.

The following highlights some of the bills the Governor has signed into law.

ELECTION REFORM – County supervisors of elections can add up to six more voting days to the existing eight days and select more types of facilities where early voting is held.  HB 7013 was the elections reform package the Legislature agreed to on the last day of session.

LANDLORD/TENANT ISSUES – Landlords can accept partial rent without waiving the right of eviction, homes with screens must be in working order while a tenant occupies the home, both tenants and landlords must notify each other if the lease is not renewed and attorney’s fees may not be awarded for personal injury actions regarding maintenance issues in HB 77.

FORECLOSURE – HB 87 gives any lien holder on residential properties the opportunity to initiate a foreclosure action, not just the mortgage holder.  It also raises the standards for defense in such actions by requiring a genuine issue of material fact.  Other provisions seek to decrease the amount of time to conclude a foreclosure action.

PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENTS – HB 277 partially implements a constitutional amendment passed by Florida voters in 2008.  The statute, which deals with the assessment of residential real property, defines a renewable energy source device.  The new legislation prohibits property appraisers from increasing residential property assessments that have installed renewable energy devices.  Another provision of the approved amendment pertaining to wind resistance improvements to real property was not addressed by the Legislature.

CITIZENS INSURANCE – SB 1770 deals with the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation and Public Adjusters.  The bill provides various reforms which are being implemented to better protect taxpayers and to financially stabilize Citizens.

INSURANCE POLICY DELIVERY – Insurance companies can now send policies electronically to their customers.  In addition, HB 157 and HB 223 allow companies to post policies and endorsements online for property and casualty insurance policies under certain conditions.

PHYSICIAN’S ASSISTANT AUTHORITY– SB 398 gives supervising physicians the authority to delegate specific tasks, including ordering medications for patients in hospitals and surgical centers, to physician assistants.

CYBER BULLYING – HB 609 establishes cyber bulling as a form of harassment and prohibits such actions both in, and out, of school settings.

ONLINE K-12 EDUCATION – Several changes and reforms were adopted concerning Florida’s online education options.  Students will now be able to enroll in online classes in any school district within the State rather than only the ones in their district; school districts cannot mandate students take online courses outside school hours or on the school grounds; and the State Board of Education and Board of Governors must develop rules enabling students to earn credit for online courses.  Funding for online education will change dramatically in the next year.

EXPERT WITNESS TESTIMONY – HB 7015 reforms the judicial system by changing the standards of expert witnesses.  The changes bring Florida in line with expert standards currently utilized by most states, the U.S. Supreme Court and all federal courts.

DEATH ROW APPEALS PROCESS – HB 7083 speeds up the appeals process for convicted criminals who have been sentenced to death.  It also provides for oversight of attorneys and a means to dismiss those cited for ineffective representation.

GUN CONTROL MEASURE – HB 1355 prohibits importers, manufacturers and dealers from selling firearms to persons who have been determined to be “mentally defective” or have been committed to a mental institution by a court.

PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION THEFT – HB 691 makes it illegal to possess personal identification information for individuals other than themselves.  This information includes possession of another person’s mail, physical documents, identification cards, and digitally stored information.  Having possession of information on five or more unrelated individuals results in a third degree felony charge.

LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANIES – SB 1300 changes rules concerning the governance of Florida limited liability companies.  No longer will there be a managing member (similar to a president); rather all members will have equal standing unless determined by the operating agreement. Amendments to the operating agreement will require a unanimous vote of the members.  All members will have the obligation to correct errors in the articles of incorporation.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT – One of the Governor’s top legislative priorities included a sales tax exemption on the sale of machinery and equipment.  HB 7007 provides for the exemption to be effective for three years beginning April 30, 2014.  The bill also requires an evaluation process of the incentives.  Because of a technical issue, the law could be challenged in court by an interested party.

CLERKS OF THE COURT – SB 556 updates current statutes regarding electronic filings.  The Florida Court System is moving towards mandatory electronic filing of legal documents.  This bill authorizes clerks to electronically affix stamps to filings and requires clerks to charge fees for electronic filings,

AGRITOURISM – SB 1106 prohibits local governments from implementing rules which would prohibit agritourism on land that is designated as agricultural by the county property appraiser.  Agritourism includes working farm tours and other recreational activities.

EVERGLADES RESTORATION – HB 7065 modifies the 1994 Everglades Forever Act, which is the primary law that outlines the protection and restoration measures to maintain and improve water quality of the Everglades.  The new provisions extend the higher rates for the per acre “privilege” tax on Everglades lands classified as agricultural.  It also directs the water management district to test the effectiveness of long term restoration plans to ensure guidelines are working.  $12 million is directed annually, for twenty years, to the regional water quality plan.

HIGHWAY SAFETY & MOTOR VEHICLES – HB 7125 is a comprehensive bill dealing with highway safety issues.  Of interest in this bill are changes regarding the red-light camera ticketing procedures.  Some traffic violation cases will be reviewed by administrative hearing officers instead of judges.  It also provides for a 60-day window for motorists ticketed for red light violations to pay the fine, identify a driver in control when the vehicle was ticketed, or request a hearing.

LEFT LANE DRIVING – Drivers traveling less than 10 miles per hour UNDER the posted speed limit will now face a $60 fine.  This applies to situations where such drivers are aware of faster traffic behind them.

DRIVING WHILE TEXTING – Drivers can no longer text while driving. Texting will be a secondary offense, meaning a driver cannot be pulled over for just this violation, but will be subject to a fine in conjunction with other violations of traffic laws.

BLENDED GASOLINE REQUIREMENT – HB 4001 repeals legislation which required that all gasoline sold by a terminal supplier, importer, blender, or wholesaler must be blended gasoline.  Blended gasoline is 90-91% gasoline and 9-10% ethanol or alternative fuel.

WINE – For those who enjoy wine, HB 623 allows for the sale of wine in 5.16 gallon reusable containers.

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