ORLANDO, Fla. – Several new laws will take effect in Florida on Sunday, including expanded benefits for first responders and “Ponce’s Law.”

Most laws written during the most recent legislative session went into effect July 1, but nearly two dozen others had later dates.

Senate Bill 376, approved unanimously by the Senate and the House, will provide workers compensation benefits, “providing that, under certain circumstances, post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by a first responder is an occupational disease compensable by workers’ compensation benefits.”

The new law eliminates the mandate that a physical injury must accompany the PTSD diagnosis.

Chief Financial Officer/State Fire Marshall Jimmy Patronis joined dozens of first responders and their families at a special bill signing ceremony in March. In an exclusive interview, Patronis said the stories covered by News 6 along with his meeting with first responders and their families, inspired him to make the PTSD law his top priority.

“Suicide in that profession is five times higher than the rest of the United States. I hate that those sacrifices had to take place in order to bring this issue to light,” he said.

Jessica Realin, wife of Pulse first responder Gerry Realin, was an instrumental force in pushing for
PTSD legislation.

“I feel excited for our first responders,” a tearful Jessica Realin said. “I don’t think they need fight to prove they are suffering just to make a department or city understand their pain.”

Another new law stems from the beating death of a 9-month-old Labrador retriever puppy last year in Volusia County.

SB 1576, named “Ponce’s Law” after the puppy, allows judges to bar people convicted of animal cruelty from owning pets. 

More than 80,000 people signed a petition in support of amending the animal cruelty law introduced by state Rep. Tom Leek (R-Ormond Beach) to allow judges to ban offenders from owning pets and impose harsher punishments.

The law also increases the chances of offenders receiving a sentencing that includes jail time.

Other laws going into effect Oct. 1 in Florida include:

  • HB 55 allows people buying guns to use credit cards to pay for background checks.
  • HB 135 allows deaf people to voluntarily identify themselves as hearing-impaired when they register vehicles. 
  • HB 523 increases penalties to a third-degree felony for people who trespass on airport property to injure other people, damage property or impede the operations of aircraft. 
  • HB 961 allows businesses to receive up to 10 cases of branded glassware per year from brewers or importers. 

Laws that went into effect earlier this year

Most new laws approved during Florida’s recent legislative session took effect over the summer.

The new statutes have an effect on Floridians of all ages, from bullying in schools to providing further protections against seniors.

Here are some highlights of those 105 new laws:

Florida gets its own timezone, maybe

One of those laws, the Sunshine Protection Act, would put Florida in a new time zone — the law dictates that Florida shall observe daylight saving time year-round, instead of only half of the year. The act, which was already passed in Florida Legislature, may not necessarily go into effect when daylight saving time ends Nov. 4.

Federal law prohibits a state from changing time zones without either a statute passed by Congress or the secretary of transportation issuing regulations. Florida lawmakers are seeking congressional approval, which has not occurred for a time zone change in over 60 years.

One of Scott’s main arguments in favor of the act is to keep Florida sunny year-round, which he said will boost tourism. It’s not clear when when the Congress will discuss the issue.

Law targeting opioid use

Legislators passed a bill that will limit most painkiller prescriptions to a three-day supply in response to the opioid crisis killing at least 16 Floridians every day.

Scott signed the bill — a top priority of the Republican governor and Legislature — in March in Manatee County, which suffered the most deaths in Florida in 2016 from fentanyl analogs. These synthetic versions of fentanyl were designed for veterinary use and can be 5,000 times more lethal than heroin.

Child marriage — finally — illegal in Florida

It will soon be illegal in Florida for anyone under the age of 17 to get married under a new state law that bans child marriages.

The legislation was a compromise between the House and Senate. The Senate originally passed a bill that banned the marriage of anyone under 18, but the House wanted exceptions for some 16- and 17-year-olds when there’s a pregnancy.

The bill signed by Scott would set limits on the marriage of 17-year-olds. While pregnancy won’t be a factor, anyone marrying a 17-year-old couldn’t be more than two years older and minors would need parental consent.

Tampa CBS affiliate 10News brought up the issue to state lawmakers, highlighting the story of Sherry Johnson. She was raped as a child, impregnated by age 10 and was married to her rapist by age 11.

The multibillion-dollar state budget

Other laws scheduled to take effect Sunday will produce more immediate results, including the $89 billion state budget. The new budget increases day-to-day public school spending by nearly $485 million and increased spending on Medicaid and the state’s subsidized children’s health insurance program.

Click here to learn 10 things you should know about Florida’s new $89 billion budget.

New benefits for first responders

Under a new law, Florida will expand workers compensation benefits so first responders can get coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder. The new law eliminates the mandate that a physical injury must accompany the PTSD diagnosis. Scott signed the bill into law at the Tampa Firefighter Museum.

One week after the Florida House unanimously approved workers compensation wage benefits for first responders diagnosed with PTSD, the wife of Pulse first responder Gerry Realin said reports from News 6 made the difference in getting the law passed.

Jessica Realin made nearly a dozen trips to Tallahassee along with other first responders’ families to testify before House and Senate subcommittees.

Copyright 2018 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.

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