By Jessie R. Box
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Governor Rick Scott was busy the week of June 16 to Friday, June 20, as he signed several bills into law. The bills included: banning synthetic drugs, enabling foster children to get driver’s licenses and increasing protection of human trafficking victims.
Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 697, on Monday, June 16, which bans six new synthetic drugs. The House Bill 697 added those six synthetic drugs to Florida’s drug crime laws, making it a third-degree felony for an individual to sell, manufacture, deliver or possess with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver these drugs. The six new banned drugs are four new types of synthetic cannabinoids and two new types of phenethylamines. This legislation also adds three lethal synthetic compounds to the trafficking statute, which are a type of phenethylamines.
On Tuesday, June 17, Gov. Scott signed House Bills 989 and 7141 to increase prosecution of human trafficking criminals and provide better services to survivors.
House Bill 989 increases protections to victims of human trafficking. The bill prohibits minors from working in adult theaters, removes time limitations to allow a prosecution for certain human trafficking offenses to be commenced at any time and its creates and increases criminal penalties relating to human trafficking.
House Bill 7141 provides definitions and makes changes to rules and guidelines to the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and community based care lead agencies in administering safe houses and safe foster homes for children who have been sexually exploited.
Gov. Scott also signed into law House Bill 7055, the Department of Juvenile Justice’s priority bill, on Tuesday, June 17, which amends a variety of statutes in Ch. 985, Florida Statutes, relating to the Department of Juvenile Justice, its duties and its programs. Specifically, the bill places in Florida statute the importance and mission of prevention within DJJ. The prevention of youth from entering or going deeper into the juvenile justice system is a core function of DJJ and critical to minimizing the presence of juvenile crime.
In addition, this legislation changes statute to place the emphasis on individualized services for rehabilitation while continuing to ensure public safety along with providing increased victim protections under the law.
Gov. Scott signed House Bill 977 on Thursday June 19, that enabled foster children who are at least 16 years of age to obtain automobile insurance and a driver’s license through state support. This legislation is an extension of the “Normalcy Bill” Gov. Scott signed in 2013, which reduced rules and regulations that limited the activities of children in foster care and allowed foster parents to give foster children permission to do daily, age appropriate activities.
House Bill 977 will create a three-year pilot program at the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to pay the cost of driver education, licensure and motor vehicle insurance for young adults in foster care so they can have the same opportunity as children who are not in foster care.
On Friday, June 20, Gov. Scott signed House Bill 7095, which created the Sports Development Program, and established a process for distributing state tax revenue for the construction or improvement of professional sports franchise facilities.
These projects must be evaluated and recommended by the Department of Economic Opportunity, and distributions must be approved by the Legislature. The state may award up to $13 million annually for all certified applicants. The maximum annual distribution for a single sports franchise facility is $3 million, and distributions can be made for up to 30 years. This bill also increases the annual distribution of state sales and uses tax available to a spring training facility and decreases the number of years the distribution will be made without changing the total number of funds available for distribution.