Laws on EBT cards, trafficking, spiny lobsters go into effect

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BY JIM TURNER
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE – County elections supervisors are up for pay raises, while penalties increase for trafficking in the modern version of food stamps and for stealing credit-card information at gas pumps, under new laws that go into effect Saturday, Oct. 1.

Sun Sentinel outdoors writer Steve Waters snags a Florida Spiny lobster on July 29 during the opening day of lobster mini-season off the coast of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.(JOE CAVERETTA/SUN SENTINEL/TNS)
Sun Sentinel outdoors writer Steve Waters snags a Florida Spiny lobster on July 29 during the opening day of lobster mini-season off the coast of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.
(JOE CAVERETTA/SUN SENTINEL/TNS)

Those changes to state laws are among 26 that take effect this weekend after being crafted during the 2016 legislative session.

Lawmakers sent 272 bills to Gov. Rick Scott from the regular legislative session, which ended in March. Scott vetoed three and signed the rest.

The majority of the new laws, including the state’s annual budget, went into effect July 1 or immediately upon receiving Scott’s signature.

Here are some of the laws that will take effect Saturday:

House arrest
HB 75 expands rules regarding electronic monitoring devices. The measure makes it a third-degree felony to ask another person to remove or help circumvent the operation of a monitoring device.

EBT cards
SB 218 is aimed at reducing trafficking in electronic-benefit transfer cards. The cards, commonly known as EBT cards, are a higher-tech form of food stamps and help provide food assistance to low-income Floridians.

The measure, in part, would make it a first-degree misdemeanor to have two or more EBT cards and sell or attempt to sell one of the cards. A second offense would be a third-degree felony.

Disabilities protection
HB 387 is named “Carl’s Law” and increases civil and criminal penalties when victims are people with disabilities. Carl Stark, a 36-year-old autistic man from St. Augustine was shot and killed in 2015 after being targeted by teenagers looking to steal a car.

Threats
SB 436 makes it a second-degree felony for making false reports about using firearms in a violent manner.

The law also makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to threaten with death or serious harm a law-enforcement officer, state attorney or assistant state attorney, firefighter, judge, elected official or any of their family members.

Supervisors pay
SB 514 adjusts salaries for county supervisors of elections to be calculated the same as for clerks of circuit court, property appraisers and tax collectors.

The Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research has indicated the change will result in $1.2 million in salary increases, which averages to an $18,540 increase per county.

Human trafficking
HB 545 prohibits people under 18 from being prosecuted for prostitution and makes clear that sexually exploiting a child in prostitution should be viewed as human trafficking.

The measure also increases the penalty for people who knowingly rent space used for prostitution.

Electronic skimmers
SB 912 is part of a crackdown on illegal electronic skimmers that have been found on gas pumps and ATM machines. The measure, backed by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, increases the penalties for people who possess counterfeit credit-card information.

The proposal includes requirements for gas-station owners and managers to use security measures on self-service fuel pumps.

Spiny lobsters
SB 1470 revises rules dealing with stone-crab traps and spiny-lobster traps. In part, the law makes clear that a person with fewer than 100 undersized spiny lobsters may face a misdemeanor violation for each of the undersized crustaceans.

Possessing more than 100 undersized spiny lobsters is a third degree felony offense.

Official corruption
HB 7071 is intended to ease the legal threshold to prosecute officials involved in public corruption.

Rather than proving an official acted “with corrupt intent,” prosecutors will need to show the person “knowingly and intentionally” engaged in the corrupt act.

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