TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (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 state court.''
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.