First Coast News reports on new laws that were signed into law here in Florida on 10/1/14. Some of the laws I am happy to be enacted, especially long awaited regulations on Florida’s commercial parasailing industry, along with a measure about crimes against unborn children, are among 32 laws that go into effect. One of the highest-profile new laws (SB 320) was years in the making. Known as the “White-Miskell Act,” it requires commercial parasailing operators to log weather conditions before embarking, forbids operations during severe weather conditions, requires operators to be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard and limits operations near airports. The bill also requires parasailing outfits to carry $2 million in insurance and prohibits them from operating when winds top 25 mph, or when 15 mph gusts are present. Lightning within 7 miles of a parasailing site also would temporarily shut down parasailing, under the legislation. Until now, regulations on the industry apply chiefly to boat operations, not customer safety. But several horrific crashes and parasailing deaths in recent years got the attention of the industry.
According to legislative analysts, there have been 21 parasailing accidents in Florida from 2001 through last October, resulting in 23 injuries and six fatalities. In 10 of the accidents, high winds or gusts were found to be a contributing factor. In six of those 10 accidents, there was also equipment failure. The other 11 accidents reportedly were caused by a variety of factors, including operator error and equipment malfunctions.
For the year, lawmakers sent 255 bills to Scott, with just one getting vetoed: SB 392, which would have allowed the Florida Department of Transportation to raise speed limits on some highways by 5 mph. The majority of the laws, 158, including the budget, went into effect July 1.
Here are highlights of some of the other laws taking effect:
Sex offenses and human trafficking:
- SB 526 and 528 include wide-ranging changes aimed at cracking down on sex offenders, including toughening sentences and strengthening registration and reporting requirements for offenders. The laws are part of a package of new laws targeting sexual predators and offenders, with two other laws, SB 522 and SB 524, going into effect July 1.
- HB 989 increases felony penalties for people who live off the proceeds of others through prostitution or when crimes involve the trafficking of children. The measure also removes a statute of limitations for human trafficking violations, prohibits minors from working in adult theaters and requires adult theaters to verify the ages of all employees. The law also creates a new third-degree felony for those who permanently brand trafficking victims.
- HB 41 creates the Florida Law Enforcement Officers’ Hall of Fame. The law, requires space to be set aside in the first floor plaza of the Capitol for the hall, joining wall space used for the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame, Fallen Firefighters Wall of Honor, Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame, Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame, Florida’s Medal of Honor recipients, and the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.
- HB 427 increases the penalty for burglars who cross county lines to commit break-ins. The law was crafted in response to the so-called “pillowcase burglars” in Martin County, where Sheriff William Snyder, a former state representative, noted an increase in people traveling Interstate 95 to break into homes and quickly flee to other counties.
- HB 485 increases penalties for teachers and other school authority figures who take advantage of students sexually.
- HB 115 allows university direct-support organization boards to meet in private when they discuss donors or potential donors, proposals for research funding or plans for initiating or supporting research.
HB 7077 sets registration requirements and standards for what are known as “compounding pharmacies” that are located in other states but sell medications in Florida. Those pharmacies, in general, create medications that are supposed to be tailored to the needs of individual patients. The law is aimed at preventing a repeat of a 2012 outbreak of fungal meningitis because of problems at a Massachusetts pharmacy.