Although the state of Florida has a $6 billion budget shortfall, on July 1, 2009, the state enacted a series of new laws that were signed by Governor Charlie Crist.
The following is a list of highlights of the newest enacted laws in Florida:
1. New Cigarette Tax: Florida’s cigarette tax increased by $1 to $1.34 per pack. The additional tax is expected to create more than $900 million in income which will be used to fund cancer research and pay Medicaid costs.
2. New Pain-Pill Database: A new law will allow the creation of a pain-pill database designed to clean-up clinics and doctors that distribute too many painkillers. Millions of dollars has to be raised from private sources to operate the database. The Department of Health has been given until October 2010 to show pain clinics and doctors how to report pain-pill sales.
3. New Seat Belt Law: Drivers can now receive a ticket and fine for not wearing their seatbelts when driving. The fine could be $100 depending on the county.
4. State-Run Citizens Property Insurance Co. will Increase their Premiums: More than 1 million policyholders’ rates will go up 10 percent a year for at least five years, starting Jan. 1, 2010.
5. New Law makes Property Tax Appeals Easier: County appraisers must now give an explanation for their appraised property values. More homeowners should be able to win reductions on their tax bills through Value Adjustment Boards.
6. New Law makes it Easier to Enroll Children in KidCare, a Federal-State Subsidized Health Care Program for Children Under 18: The waiting period to switch from private insurance to KidCare has been reduced to two months, from six months. Parents who fail to pay $15 or $20 monthly co-pay for KidCare will have to wait only 30 days to re-enroll, instead of 60 days.
7. New Law makes ‘Bright Futures’ Program less Lucrative For College Students: Bright Futures students will receive a flat scholarship award, from $95 to $126 per credit hour, instead of the conventional scholarship that covered up to 100 percent of tuition costs.
8. New Law Allows Parents more Flexibility in Children’s 529 Education Prepaid Plans: Prepaid college plan parents saving for their children’s education through 529 prepaid plans will now have added flexibility to transfer the money to private and out-of-state colleges and career centers.
9. New Law Deregulates Phone Rates of Home Phone Service: Phone companies can now raise phone rates with no state oversight by up to 10 percent a year. As well, a single person making less than $16,245 will now qualify for free or reduced-cost phone service.
10. New Law Bans “Crash Tax”: Local governments are now banned from charging a first-responder fee for a police officer to respond to the scene of an accident or for ambulance transport.
11. New Law For Florida Plants: A new law that came into effect on July 1, 2009 prohibits cities, counties and homeowners associations from enacting or enforcing rules against Florida-friendly landscaping, which aims to reduce the use of water, pesticides and fertilizers.