Friday, July 1, 2011

Scott signs Florida bills on lawsuits, school food

Bills limiting lawsuits against automakers and giving the state's agriculture commissioner authority over school food programs became law Thursday with Gov. Rick Scott's signature.

The Republican governor also vetoed a bill (SB 1992) that would have exempted some volunteers from criminal background screenings required for those who work with state-funded social service programs that serve the elderly, children and people with disabilities.

"That is a risk that is not worth taking," Scott wrote in his veto message.

The lawsuit measure (SB 142) will make it more difficult for injured people to win product liability damages from automakers and other manufacturers. It will allow juries to hear evidence, previously prohibited, of other factors that may have contributed to those injuries besides alleged product defects.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce issued a statement praising the law as a step in the right direction and adding that "more work is needed to repair Florida's broken legal system."

The school nutrition law (SB 1312) was a top priority for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. It shifts oversight of lunch and other food programs to his department from the Department of Education.

Putnam said in a statement that it will mean more Florida-grown fresh fruit and vegetables for students.

Scott also signed a bill (SB 1128) to prevent local governments from diverting surplus funds in their employee pension plans to other purposes. It also will require them to disclose the value of their retirement plans and put that information on a state website.

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