The new year will bring a handful of new laws to the Sunshine State, where legislators passed 200 or so new bills during their session that ended in March 2020.

Most of those became law in July or October, but a few others — including the popular end to dog racing in Florida — were implemented on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1.

Here’s a look at some of the new rules:

AMENDMENT 13 – DOG RACING REACHES FINISH LINE

As of Jan. 1, it is illegal in Florida to bet on any races involving live greyhounds or other dogs. Nearly 70% of Florida voters approved the ban, known as Amendment 13, in 2018.

 The amendment adds the following language to the state’s constitution: “After Dec. 31, 2020, a person authorized to conduct gaming or pari-mutuel operations may not race greyhounds or any member of the canis familiaris subspecies in connection with any wager for money or any other thing of value in this state, and persons in this state may not wager money or any other thing of value on the outcome of a live dog race occurring in this state.”

Florida lawmakers voted unanimously to increase fines for drivers who pass school buses that are loading or unloading children. The increase took effect Jan. 1. WHITNEY HOFFMAN/Pixabay

HOUSE BILL 37 – PASSING SCHOOL BUSES GETS PRICEY

State lawmakers voted unanimously to double fines for drivers who illegally pass school buses 

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during the loading and unloading of children. Drivers who fail to stop will be fined $200 rather than $100. Drivers who pass a bus on the side children enter and exit will now be fined $400 instead of $200.

House Bill 1005 – VOTING SYSTEMS

Another unanimous approval involves the state’s election system and voting equipment. The new law “allows supervisors of elections and county canvassing boards to use automated tabulating equipment not part of the voting system to conduct both machine and manual recounts,” according to a report by ABC Action News. “The policy will also require accuracy-testing for voting systems at least 25 days before the start of early voting in the state.” This is a correction to the current law in which systems are tested after canvassing of vote-by-mail ballots has started in certain instances.

CS/SB 292 –  INSURANCE CLAIMS:

The new requires an insurance carrier to provide the insured with a “loss run” statement within 15 days after receiving a request, according to ABC Action News. The statements are a report generated by an insurance carrier showing the claims history of an insured.

The new policy also forbids carriers from charging a fee for preparing or providing the reports.

HB 7009 – NO PRIVATE GAIN FOR PUBLIC EMPLOYEES 

HB 7009 is the formal legislation that puts Amendment 12 into action. The law, which took effect Dec. 31, lays the legal foundation for the 2018 Amendment 12 ballot initiative that aimed to prevent public employees and public officials from “abusing their positions in order to obtain a ‘disproportionate benefit’ for themselves or other specified persons or entities.”

Additional provisions of the amendment take effect in 2022 and will prohibit public officials from getting paid to lobby during their term in office and for six years after leaving office.

MINIMUM WAGE WORKERS GET A RAISE — OF 9 CENTS PER HOUR

The state’s minimum wage increased by nine cents an hour on Jan. 1 to $8.65. 

Workers who earn tips now receive at least $5.63 an hour. The rates are tied to a 2004 constitutional amendment that requires the state to increase pay to help offset cost-of-living expenses.

A much larger minimum wage increase — to $10 an hour — is expected in September 2021 as a result of the voter-approved Amendment 2, which passed in November. The wage will continue to increase incrementally each year until reaching $15 in 2026. After that, the minimum wage will be adjusted annually based on increases to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).

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