The New Year Brings Toll Breaks and Disaster Assistance in Florida

TALLAHASSEE – State laws and other changes coming in the new year include respite for motorists who frequently use toll roads and property insurance reform.

Laws passed during this year’s regular legislative session and special sessions also include making money available for land conservation and allowing local governments to post legal notices online instead of in newspapers.

Most of the bills that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed this year took effect on or about July 1. But here are some changes that will go into effect on Sunday:

During a special session this month, lawmakers approved a measure (SB 6-A) that will give 50 percent credits to motorists who log 35 or more toll trips in a month. The program will last one year and lawmakers have agreed to spend $500 million to help toll agencies cover lost revenue.

In response to the devastating 2021 collapse of the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside, lawmakers approved property tax refunds to be available when residential properties become uninhabitable for 30 days. During the December special session, lawmakers approved a measure (SB 4-A) to offer similar refunds to homeowners who sustained damage in Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. Property owners will be able to apply to county property appraisers between January 1 and April 1.

Lawmakers during this month’s special session approved ending a controversial practice known as homeowners insurance benefit allocation. The practice involves owners signing claims to contractors, who then request payments from insurers. The Prohibition on Assignment of Benefits (SB 2-A) will apply to policies issued on or after January 1.

Lawmakers approved a measure (SB 898) that will require apartment owners to run background checks on all employees. The bill, dubbed “Miya’s Law,” followed the death of Miya Marcano, a 19-year-old Valencia College student who disappeared from her Orlando apartment in September and was found dead a week later. The alleged killer, who later killed himself, worked as a maintenance worker at the Marcano apartment complex.

As part of a broader education bill (HB 1467), lawmakers required that a training program be available beginning January 1 for school librarians, media specialists, and others involved in selecting library materials. school. The program is aimed, in part, at providing access to “age-appropriate library materials and resources.”

Part of the state budget will free up $300 million within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for land acquisition.

Lawmakers approved a measure (HB 7049) that will allow local governments to post legal notices on county websites instead of in newspapers. Local governments in counties with fewer than 160,000 residents must first hold public hearings to determine whether residents have sufficient Internet access.

An 8.4 percent average decrease in workers’ compensation insurance rates will take effect in January, marking the sixth consecutive year that average rates have decreased.

Florida’s appeals courts will be renewed on January 1 under a law (HB 7027) that created a 6th District Court of Appeals and revised the jurisdictions of the 1st District Court of Appeals, the Court of Appeals of the 2nd District and the Court of Appeals of the 5th District.

One bill (SB 292) will require hospitals and other state-licensed birthing facilities to test newborns for congenital cytomegalovirus if babies fail hearing tests. The virus can cause hearing loss in babies.

The new laws (HB 7001 and HB 7003) will carry out a constitutional amendment that voters overwhelmingly approved in 2018 to extend the time certain officials will have to wait to begin lobbying after leaving government office from two to six years. The restrictions will apply to lawmakers, heads of state agencies, judges and many local officials.

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