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New Laws Go Into Effect Today

High school students will have to take some tougher classes. Exotic pythons can no longer be sold in Florida. And it will be harder to sue businesses for “slip and fall” incidents.

Today, more than 150 measures go into law, the product of the Florida Legislature's 2010 session, which also included the passage of the fiscal year 2011 budget.

- SB 4 heightens graduation standards and phases out part of the high school FCAT, the standardized exam given to Florida students. The new law will eventually require students to take geometry two years of algebra, biology, chemistry or physics and an additional "rigorous" science course in order to graduate. DOE officials would also create and eventually implement end-of-course exams. Some school officials have questioned how it will affect graduation rates.

- SB 2126 expands the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, a program that that sends low-income Florida students to private school. The new law would allow the program, currently capped at $118 million in aggregate, to keep expanding as more donations flow in. The program is funded by private companies that get a corporate tax credit in return for a donation. Currently, more than 27,000 students receive a $3,950 scholarship. Under the new law, the $118 million cap expands to $140 million this year, and then allows it to expand by 25 percent whenever the donations reach 90 percent of the cap. The measure also provides additional tax credits for the program, adding oil and gas severance taxes, beverage taxes on alcohol and other types of business taxes. The goal is to increase the amount of students who receive the scholarship and boost the individual award amount, so that it eventually reaches 80 percent of the state allocation for per pupil spending, which is currently at about $6,866 per student.

- Former Senate President Jim King, a long time Jacksonville lawmaker, will be immortalized by the Department of Transportation when it places road markers on the portion of State Road 116 between State Road 9A east of Jacksonville nad State Road 101/Mayport Road in Duval County designating it as the “James E. 'Jim' King Jr., Parkway.” (SB 176)

- Another bill (HB 525) becoming law Thursday eliminates the statutue of limitations on sex crimes related to minors. The measure was pushed by lawyer Michael Dolce and Lauren book, the daughter of Miami lobbyist Ron Book, who were both victimized as children.

- SB 1708 makes it a felony to kill, maim or mutiliate a horse and then sell the meat that is not acquired from a “licensed slaughterhouse.” The measure was sponsored by Sen. Victor Crist,R-Tampa, and Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami, who proposed it in response to incidents of horses being stolen and butchered for human consumption in the state over the last few years.

- Lawmakers upped the requirements for Florida students to qualify for the popular Bright Futures Scholarship, which pays for the education for about half of the students at Florida's public universities. The changes include raising the SAT requirements from 1270 to 1290 for the top award and 970 to 1050 for the secondary award. (HB 5201)

- Another new law makes it more difficult for an individual to sue a business for “slip and fall” incidents. The new law places the burden of proof on a person who is injured in a slip and fall case. They now will have to prove the business had knowledge of a dangerous condition and didn't fix it. The law was a major priority of the Florida Chamber and other members of the business community.

- Don't try to put a snake on a plane. SB 318, which goes into effect today, bans the importation of dangerous giant reptiles into Florida and enhances the state’s ability to prevent internet sales of banned wildlife. It also increases penalties for those who break wildlife laws.

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