Our Position: The new year ushered in some new laws that many may not be aware of and, even though most will not impact every citizen, some are worth noting.

New laws and bills passed by the Florida Legislature are beginning to take effect as the new year begins. Some are obscure laws that deal with government officials and how government runs and they might never impact most of us. There are a few that caught our attention and we believe are worth paying special attention to.

House Bill 37 will take a little more out of your pocket if you dare pass a stopped school bus. This is a law that has been on the books for a while — as we all should know not to pass a bus while children are getting on or off.

Now, if you do, the fine will be $200 (up from $100). And that is the minimum penalty. If you pass school a bus on the side where children exit or get on you can be fined $400 now. Think about that next time you’re in a hurry.

Amendment 12 was approved on the 2018 ballot and officially became a law Thursday.

It calls for penalties for any public official or employee who uses their position for gain. The law was modeled after a Florida Commission on Ethics rule saying those employees should not be entitled to disproportionate benefit.

The constitutional amendment says a “public officer or public employee shall not abuse his or her public position in order to obtain a disproportionate benefit for himself or herself; his or her spouse, children, or employer; or for any business with which he or she contracts; in which he or she is an officer, a partner, a director, or a proprietor; or in which he or she owns an interest.”

Amendment 12, which had wide public support in 2018, contains two other laws that require action from the Legislature and will not be in force until Dec. 31, 2022.

After that date, members of the Legislature will have to wait six years after leaving office before they can lobby others lawmakers and elected officials. That is a requirement we heartily endorse. The law also impacts former state agency heads and judges. Another facet of the bill will prohibit public officials from receiving compensation for lobbying government agencies or fellow lawmakers on things like policy that would impact a client or contracts before the state or local governments. That is another much needed restriction.

Another change that begins today is the first installment of a hike in the minimum wage. That is great news for a lot of workers in Florida.

The new minimum wage is now $8.65 an hour. In a few months, Sept. 30 to be exact, it will increase to $10 an hour on its way to the new $15 an hour minimum in 2026.

Restaurant servers and others who work for tips will now receive $5.63 an hour (along with their tips).

And, finally, if you wanted to see some greyhound racing, you’re out of luck. Amendment 13 ended greyhound racing as of Thursday at any pari-mutual track.


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