New budget, more than 100 new laws hit the books

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – More than 100 new laws will hit the books Wednesday from the 2020 legislative session, with issues ranging from expanding school vouchers to increasing fines for bear poaching.

Out of 156 bills Gov. Ron DeSantis had signed into law as of Tuesday afternoon, 112, including the state’s new $92.2 billion budget, will take effect Wednesday, the start of the state’s fiscal year.

Other measures, such as a bill (SB 140) that will help clear the way for people to legally set off fireworks on July 4, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, took effect immediately after being signed by DeSantis, or shortly thereafter.

Among the bills taking effect Wednesday:

BUDGET AND TAXES

  • HB 5001: The record $92.2 billion budget increases public-school funding by $137 per student and provides 3 percent pay raises for state workers. Also, it includes $500 million to increase teacher salaries, $625 million for the Everglades and other water-related projects and $100 million for the Florida Forever conservation program.
  • HB 7097: A $47 million tax package includes a pair of sales-tax “holidays,” with back-to-school shoppers able to avoid paying sales taxes from Aug. 7 through Aug. 9 on clothes costing $60 or less, school supplies costing $15 or less and on the first $1,000 of the cost of personal computers. The bill also includes a disaster-preparedness tax holiday that was held around the June 1 start of hurricane season.

SCHOOLS

  • HB 7067: Lawmakers took a series of steps to increase school choice, including dramatically expanding the Family Empowerment Scholarship voucher program. The program, which was created last year, provided 17,724 vouchers as of February --- a number that will be able to jump to more than 46,600 during the 2020-2021 academic year.
  • HB 641: Coupled with $500 million in the budget, the bill sets the stage for public-school teachers to get pay raises. It also eliminates the controversial Best and Brightest teacher bonus program.
  • HB 1213: The bill will lead to public-school students learning about the 1920 Ocoee Election Day riot that involved attacks on Black residents and requires the Department of Education to develop standards and curriculum for teaching the history of the Holocaust.
  • HB 7011: The Florida High School Athletic Association will be required to take a series of steps to protect high school athletes from suffering heat strokes. For example, the association will have to establish requirements for “cooling zones,” which could include such things as cold-water immersion tubs.

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