New laws take effect, including ban on texting while driving

Many of the bills passed by the Florida Legislature will go into effect Monday, impacting drivers, students, patients and immigrants across the state.

Of the 100 new laws that take effect on Monday, the ban on texting while driving is one of the most discussed. If you are caught texting or even holding the phone up to your ear, you could get pulled over. The consequences are even worse while driving in a school or work zone.

A first offense for driving while texting will be punishable by a $30 fine, with a second offense costing $60. However, in Orange County, fines will start at $114 for the first time. It is then $164 for the second offense. Court costs and fees would apply as well, with points being added to licenses. Some agencies will only be writing warnings until 2020.

Orange County Sheriff John Mina believes that it should be pretty simple for officers to figure out who is breaking this new law. "We've all seen them, driving five or ten miles per hour slower than everyone else, distracted by texting and driving. We think it's going to be fairly easy for law enforcement to spot that and cite the drivers," he said.

Hands-free uses of your phone, like talking on speaker phone or navigating your GPS, are still permitted. However, starting in October, even this will be banned in school and construction zones.

Florida is one of the last states to making texting while driving a primary traffic violation.

Other laws also take effect on July 1st, including a new law for Florida students. Up to 18,000 of them can enroll in the $130 million Family Empowerment Scholarship , which marked one of the largest expansions of private-school voucher program in the state's history. It is intended for families with an annual income at 300% of federal poverty guidelines, which means those making no more than $77,250 for a family of four.

Proponents of the measure say the program gives parents more choices for their children in districts where local public schools are failing, while critics say it will strip away money from cash-strapped public schools.

A new law regarding so-called sanctuary cities also takes effect. It can impact hundreds of thousands of immigrants who are in the custody of local law enforcement. The law requires local governments to honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers for immigrants who are suspected of being in the country illegally and have been arrested or convicted of a crime. It exempts crime victims and witnesses.

People who opposed the measure say the law was a politically motivated and will increase anti-immigrant sentiment. The state has the nation's third-largest population of immigrants who are in the country illegally at about 825,000 people, according to the Pew Research Center. A portion of this new law giving power to the state attorney general to sue to force compliance goes into effect on Oct. 1.

A ban on vaping in the workplace also begins on July 1st. The ban is similar to the long-standing law that prohibits smoking tobacco in places people work.  It's part of a constitutional amendment supported by nearly 70 percent of voters last year. The new law still allows vaping at private residences and places like some bars, designated hotel rooms and retail vape shops.

Other laws, like one allowing paramedics to carry firearms in high-risk situations, also take effect on July 1st. However, there are two new laws set to take effect Monday that require the federal government's approval for implementation.

One of them creates an agricultural hemp program . Known for its oranges, Florida wanted to position itself as a national leader in agricultural hemp after a federal farm bill passed in 2018, giving states the opportunity to develop their own industry. The U.S. Agriculture Department has to review and approve program submissions.

Hemp is related to marijuana but only has trace amounts of THC, the chemical that makes people high. It has a wide range of uses, from ropes and clothing to building materials and animal feed.

The other law would give Floridians access to cheaper prescription drugs by creating two programs to import drugs from Canada and from other countries that have not been specified. The plan needs to be approved by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.