The new year brought with it a slew of new laws, and strict enforcement of a previously-implemented policy.
For starters, Florida Highway Patrol troopers will now be issuing tickets to those caught texting and driving. Since the new law went into effect last summer, drivers had been receiving warnings.
In recent years, texting while driving was considered a “secondary” offense in Florida, meaning that motorists could only be cited for texting if they were also stopped for other reasons. However, the new law (HB 107) makes it a “primary” offense.
The law also bans drivers from talking on cellphones in school and work zones unless they are using “hands-free” electronic devices.
Tickets for a first offense carry a $30 fine plus court costs, which could reach $108.16. The fine increases to $60, or $158.18 with court costs, for a second violation within five years.
Highway Patrol troopers have issued about 800 warnings, while more than 1,150 have been issued in total among all law enforcement agencies statewide.
Some of the other changes that took effect at midnight on Wednesday include:
-As part of an $87 million tax relief package (HB 7123), a sales-tax rate on commercial leases has been reduced from 5.7 percent to 5.5 percent. The change is expected to produce a $30.8 million cut in state and local taxes in the remaining six months of the fiscal year. Over the course of a full year, the savings are estimated to be around $64.5 million.
-HB 831 requires health care practitioners to transmit prescriptions electronically, with some exceptions.
-HB 409 allows remote, online notarization of documents.
-HB 427 establishes the Honor and Remember Flag, which will honor members of the military who have died in the line of duty. The law authorizes the flag to be flown at half-staff at state buildings and by local governments on Veterans Day, Gold Star Mother’s Day, or any day when a member of the military from Florida is killed in the line of duty.
In related news, Florida’s minimum wage also increases with the beginning of 2020, going from $8.46 to $8.56 per hour, and from $5.44 to $5.54 per hour for tipped employees. Voters will decide in November whether to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by September 2026.