Monday, May 16, 2011

Measures that passed in Fla.'s legislative session

Legislation that passed during the 2011 session of the Florida Legislature, which ended Saturday, would:


- Put on the November 2012 ballot a proposed constitutional amendment banning public funding of abortions -already prohibited by law - and exempting abortion from the Florida Constitution's strong privacy right.

- Exclude abortion from policies obtained through insurance exchanges, which states must establish in 2014 under the federal health care overhaul, although separate abortion riders paid for by policyholders may be offered.

- Require women to undergo ultrasounds before getting an abortion although they can opt out of a requirement to view or listen to a description of the image.

- Make it more difficult for minors seeking abortions to get court waivers from Florida's parental notification law.

- Loosen limits on the spending of money to facilitate adoption that's raised from "Choose Life" license plates including letting an advocacy group use 15 percent for administration and promotion.


- Cut state maximum unemployment compensation benefits from 26 to 23 weeks if the jobless rate is at 10.5 percent or higher with the maximum dropping on a sliding scale to as few as 12 weeks when the unemployment rate falls to 5 percent or below. The benefit reduction would lower unemployment taxes paid by employers.

- Overhaul Florida's property insurance laws in a bid to generate more competition through such provisions as letting insurers pass on to customers up to 15 percent of their reinsurance costs in addition to state-approved rate increases and setting deadlines of two years for filing sinkhole claims and three years for other damages including wind.

- Deregulate landline telephone service.


- Put a state constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot that would require Senate confirmation of Florida Supreme Court justices and give lawmakers a say on court rules.

- Make it more difficult for injured people to win product liability damages from auto makers and other manufacturers.

- Overhaul medical malpractice lawsuits including a requirement that out-of-state doctors apply for a certificate to testify as experts and partial immunity from liability for doctors who volunteer to help high school and collegiate sports teams.

Set limits on lawsuits against nonprofit Florida teaching hospitals and their staffs.


- Make it a felony to possess a stolen credit or debit card that was or should have been known to be stolen.

- Remove requirements for ex-convicts to have their civil rights restored before they can get occupational licenses.

- Make bestiality - sexual contact between humans and animals - a crime.

- Reduce the penalty for "sexting" by minors so they no longer would be subject to child pornography charges and registration as sex offenders for electronically sending sexually explicit photos or videos of themselves.

- Require rape suspects to get tested for hepatitis, allow evidence of suspects' past sex crimes to be used in court, require police to transport victims for medical treatment or have forensic evidence gathered and provide relocation assistance to victims.

DRUG ABUSE(equals)

- Crack down on "pill mills" that sell prescription painkillers to drug dealers and addicts through provisions that include stiffer penalties for doctors who overprescribe and tighter regulation of pharmacies. The bill retains a prescription tracking system that Gov. Rick Scott wanted to repeal but bans pharmaceutical companies from funding it.

- Make it a crime to possess a designer drug known as MDPV or "bath salts" with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.


- Establish a statewide teacher evaluation and merit pay system in 2014 and do away with tenure for new teachers hired after July 1.

- Loosen class limits by allowing up to five students over the maximum after an annual head count and by exempting hundreds of courses from the requirements.

- Expand the McKay voucher program that lets disabled students attend private schools at public expense by adding children with lesser disabilities such as asthma and allergies.

- Transfer responsibility for lunches and other school nutrition from the Department of Education to the Department of Agriculture.

- Provide charter schools with more training and technical assistance while giving those rated high performing longer contracts and other benefits.

- Let certain private school students join public school teams if the sport they want to play is not offered at their own school.

- Require school districts to adopt dress codes that ban the wearing of clothing in a revealing or disruptive way.

- Expand virtual learning options and require high school students to complete at least one online course before graduating.


- Roll back the state's ability to control sprawl and development, leaving it mostly in the hands of local government.

- Make it more difficult to challenge development or mining in wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas.


- Spend $69.7 billion during the budget year starting July 1 - a reduction of nearly $4 billion from the current year.

- Require teachers, state workers and many local government employees to pay 3 percent of their salaries into the Florida Retirement System, now fully funded by taxpayers.

- Put a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot that would cap state revenue with allowances for growth in population and inflation.

- Put new limits on voting including shorter hours for early balloting.

- Exempt photos, video and audio recordings of deaths from the state's public records law.

- Put a state constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot to repeal Florida's ban on using public funds to aid churches and other religious organizations while adding a provision saying people couldn't be barred from public programs because they've chosen to receive those benefits from religious organizations.

- Require welfare applicants to take drug tests and pay for them out of their own pockets although they'd get reimbursed if they pass. Benefits would be denied for at least six months to those who fail.


- Prohibit doctors from asking patients about gun ownership.

- Bar local governments from passing gun laws stricter than the state's.

- Decriminalize the accidental showing of a concealed fire arm by a person licensed to carry such a weapon.


- Revamps Florida's Medicaid system for nearly 3 million low-income and disabled people by putting it in the hands of private companies and hospital networks as a cost-cutting move subject to federal approval.

- Put a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot that would prohibit government requirements to purchase health insurance as in the national health care overhaul. Many legal experts say the federal law still would prevail.

- Prohibit by law requirements that people purchase health insurance as in the federal health care overhaul.


- Put a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot to reduce property taxes for homeowners and businesses alike along with an additional exemption for people who have not owned a house for at least three years

- Put a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot that would expand a homestead property tax exemption for combat-disabled veterans by lifting a requirement they must have lived in Florida before enlisting.

- Cut the corporate income tax $30 million a year by increasing the exemption from $5,000 to $25,000, which would save each company $1,100.

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