24 new Florida laws go into effect on Thursday

From stricter penalties for ripping off military veterans to new guidelines for specialty license plates, 24 laws go into effect Thursday after being passed during the 2020 legislative session.

The changes are among 206 bills that cleared the House and Senate before the session ended March 19. Of those bills, 201, including a new state budget, were signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Most of the new laws went into effect July 1, the start of the state’s fiscal year. But DeSantis also signed a batch on Sept. 19, including the license plate changes.

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Among the measures becoming law Thursday:

--- HB 1135, which revises the state’s specialty license-plate program. That includes expanding the potential number of designs from the current 123 to 150 and requiring a minimum of 1,000 sales before new specialty plates can move forward and existing plates can remain in circulation. The bill also creates plates for the University of Alabama, the University of Georgia and Auburn University and establishes a “super tag” template for nine black fraternities and sororities dubbed the “Divine 9” --- Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho and Iota Phi Theta.

--- HB 387, which sets a $25 fee for most specialty license plates, with a $50 fee for the University of Alabama, University of Georgia and Auburn tags.

--- HB 205, which expands a portion of state law designed to prevent people from misrepresenting service in the military. The bill makes it a third-degree felony to use such misrepresentations to land jobs or political offices.

--- SB 294, which creates the “Florida Veterans Protection Act” to make it a first-degree felony to obtain or attempt to swindle $50,000 or more from 10 or more military veterans.

--- SB 680, which expands a 2017 law that increased penalties for people who remove fins from sharks and discard the rest of the sharks in the ocean. The new law bans the import, export and sale of shark fins but includes exceptions for people who already had federal shark fishing permits as of Jan. 1 and seafood dealers who had federal shark dealer permits. Shark fins are considered a delicacy in parts of Asia.

--- HB 333, which prohibits courts from granting bail to adult defendants who are appealing convictions in cases that require registering as sexual offenders or sexual predators and in which the victims were minors.

--- HB 675, which allows law-enforcement officers to make warrantless arrests for indecent exposure. Currently, officers need to have witnessed the incidents of indecent exposure or obtain warrants to make arrests.

--- SB 1286, which makes a series of changes to laws prohibiting contraband at prisons and other types of state and local detention facilities. The bill, in part, adds medical marijuana, hemp and industrial hemp to a list of prohibited contraband. Also, it addresses issues related to cell phones and vaping devices.

--- HB 133, which makes a series of changes related to towing vessels and vehicles. In part, the bill requires local governments to set maximum rates for towing and immobilizing vessels. It also prohibits counties and cities from imposing fees on wrecker operators or towing businesses.

--- HB 915, which expands state oversight of 20 commercial service airports, including requiring audits every seven years at the Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa international airports. All 20 must post online documents such as meeting notices, agendas and budgets.

Many of the measures taking effect this week keep in place exemptions to state-public records laws. Such exemptions often are subject to repeal unless they are re-enacted by lawmakers.

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Those measures include exemptions related to law-enforcement body camera recordings within private residences, health care facilities or other places where people would expect privacy (HB 7015); email addresses collected by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for vehicle-registration renewal notices and driver-license renewal notices (HB 7001); and information about the identities of victims of child abuse and sexual offenses and minors who are victims of human trafficking (HB 7019).