TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — New laws and provisions from older ones are coming online in the next few days as the calendar rolls over to 2024. Here are some of the biggest changes Floridians can expect.
SB 774: Ethics Requirements for Public Officials
This new law is perhaps the most controversial coming into effect. It requires elected city officials to disclose finances in greater detail, bringing them in line with many other politicians in the state like the Florida Cabinet and Legislature.
Starting Jan. 1, city commissioners, mayors and others will need to fill out what's known as "Form 6." It requires details on income sources, liability and assets over $1,000, net worth and federal tax returns.
The change has sparked a wave of resignations from some city officials in places like St. Pete Beach, Naples and Palm Beach County. Those stepping down call the new law too invasive and state overreach.
State Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, who carried the bill in the Florida House this year, said transparency has come with entrance into Florida politics.
"To those people who are contemplating resigning, or have resigned, I would have one simple question for them," Roach said. "What is it that you are trying to hide? Or what is it that you don't want your constituents to know? And I would posit that those are probably the very officials that this bill is designed to target."
HB 1627: Pretrial Release and Detention
HB 1627 has numerous provisions but its biggest changes stiffen pretrial release options depending on an accused prior criminal history and status.
According to the legislative analysis, a person is prohibited from "being released prior to his or her first appearance hearing if he or she has been arrested for committing any capital felony, life felony, first-degree felony, or second-degree felony; another specified offense; or otherwise meets specified criteria."
The new law also requires the Florida Supreme Court to create a statewide bond schedule and prohibits judges in lower courts from establishing one that's a lesser amount.
HB 425: Transportation
Florida's Move Over Law is expanding. In the new year, drivers will need to get over into the other lane or, if unable, slow down for disabled vehicles with their hazards on. The same goes for vehicles that are stopped with at least one person visible.
HB 121: Florida Kidcare Program Eligibility
While the law's effective date was in June of this year, Florida's Kidcare Program needs to have its planned expansion ready by the start of 2024.
The program funnels federal aid to families who need help with their children's medical costs but don't qualify for Medicaid. Under the expansion, those with household incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level can qualify. It was previously capped at 200%.
HB 109: State Park Campsite Reservations
If the great outdoors of Florida are calling you, there's good news. State residents will now get to book RV lots, cabins and campsites at Florida's state parks one month before nonresidents. Floridians booking will be able to do so 11 months before their desired reservation date. Nonresidents remain at 10 months.
HB 1275: Persons with Disabilities Registry
Lawmakers approved HB 1275 this year to create safer interactions between law enforcement and those with impairments or disabilities. Officials believe poor capacity to follow instructions or conditions like Tourette syndrome could be "mistakenly perceived as an indication of hostility."
The new law establishes a uniform standard for creating a "Persons with Disabilities" registry. They are expected to include "individuals who have a developmental, psychological or other disability or condition that may be relevant to their interactions with law enforcement officers."
A companion measure also creates public records exemptions for all records and personal info connected to enrollees.
SB 144: Lactation Spaces
This new law expands state rules permitting breastfeeding in any location public or private, where mothers are authorized to be. Starting Jan. 1 of this year, Florida's county courthouses will all need to have a dedicated lactation for feeding or expression.
The lactation space cannot be in a restroom. It has to be shielded from public view, free from intrusion while in use, and "must be hygienic, clean and sanitary, and conducive to maintaining and preventing disease."
HB 7061: Sheriffs Providing Child Protective Investigative Services
Florida's Department of Children and Families (DCF) handles child protective investigations in 60 of the state's 67 counties. Sheriff's offices in Broward, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Seminole and Walton counties handle them in the remaining seven — at least they did.
By Dec. 31, 2023, the new law requires sheriffs providing child protective investigations to transfer all of that responsibility back to DCF.