TALLAHASSEE _ Laws that put limits on funeral protests, late-night massages and the use of tax dollars at strip joints and liquor stores are among those that go into effect Tuesday.
While the majority of the nearly 200 bills approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott this spring hit the books July 1, another round of new laws goes into effect Oct. 1.
Among those is Senate Bill 50. That bill — sponsored in the House by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, and in the Senate by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart — requires the public be given the reasonable opportunity to speak at public meetings, like a city council or school board meeting. The law applies to most public meetings, but there are some instances when the opportunity to speak doesn’t apply.
While many local governments allow public comment, the right to speak wasn’t explicitly outlined in the state’s open meetings law, and, in 2010, two courts said the law only required meetings to be publicly noticed.
Rodrigues has said the law restores Florida “back to the highest government standard.”
The new laws include measures that increase penalties on those who recruit minors into gangs (HB 407) and distribute harmful material to minors at school (HB 113) and provide protections against the theft of plastic pallets used to transport agriculture (HB 1393).
A couple of vice-tied measures go into place Tuesday.
A new law (HB 701) prohibits state-issued Electronic Benefits Transfer “EBT” Cards, formerly known as food stamps, from being used at strip clubs, liquor stores and gambling establishments.
During the 2013 session, several Democrats called the Republican-backed proposal political posturing, noting that the state Department of Children and Families already had the ability to shut off state “EBT” cards from being used at such places.
Another new law (HB 7005) is the latest effort to crack down on human trafficking by targeting shady massage businesses that are fronts for prostitution.
The law prevents the operations of massage establishments between midnight and 5 a.m. and in most cases prohibits people from living in the businesses. The law has an exception for businesses such as health spas and hotels that offer massage services.
Also, the never-popular field of funeral protesting will now have some state-backed guidelines.
A law (HB 15) makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to protest within 500 feet of a funeral. Besides being a first-degree misdemeanor to protest within 500 feet of a funeral, protests must halt during the period one hour before the services to one hour after the funeral or burial is completed.
The measure is a direct response to protests that have been held for several years at military funerals and other events to draw attention to the beliefs of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church.
Also, among the laws taking effect Oct. 1:
■ HB 487: Freemasonry license plates. The law creates a Freemasonry license plate, with most of the proceeds from the $25 annual fee going to the Masonic Home Endowment Fund, Inc. Presale of the plates starts Tuesday.
■ SB 112: False documents. Strengthens penalties against filing false documents that are intended to defraud or harass others.
■ SB 338: Utility theft. The law imposes tougher penalties for electricity thieves. Rather than a first-degree misdemeanor, the penalty would vary depending on the value and services stolen, along with the criminal history of the accused.
■ HB 407: Gang prevention. The law makes it a second-degree felony to recruit or encourage anyone under 13 years of age into a criminal gang. The law also increases from second-degree misdemeanor to first-degree misdemeanor trespassing charges for individuals previously convicted of gang related crimes in school safety zones. The law also allows judges, rather than juries, to factor gang membership into criminal sentencing.
■ HB 611: False information to law enforcement. Anyone who previously has been convicted of giving false information to a law enforcement officer will face a third-degree felony for repeating the offense verbally or in writing.
■ HB 691: Identification theft. The law makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to possess the personal identification information — such as Social Security numbers, driver licenses, passport information and credit card numbers — of four or fewer people, and a third-degree felony to possess five or more. There are exemptions for parents, guardians and certain government employees.
■ HB 1173: Florida Communications Fraud Act. The law increases penalties for communications fraud, while setting a 5-year statute of limitations for the pursuit of civil and criminal actions against those who commit communications fraud.