Starting yesterday, several new laws will take effect in Florida, covering various aspects of life, such as health, education, environment, and transportation. These laws were passed by the Florida legislature in the 2023 session, and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Here are three that you should be aware of:
Special Needs Registry (SB784/HB1275)
The “Protect Our Loved Ones Act,” introduces the creation of a “Special Persons Registry,” which is designed to assist law enforcement officers in their interactions with individuals who have developmental, psychological, or other disabilities or conditions. It provides a framework for local law enforcement agencies to develop and maintain this database, allowing for enrollment and removal processes.
Adults with disabilities can enroll themselves, and parents or legal guardians can enroll minors or incapacitated adults. Proof of eligibility, such as certification from a licensed healthcare professional, must be submitted at the time of registration. The bill specifies acceptable documentation for eligibility, including certification from physicians, psychologists, mental health counselors, or psychiatrists. Registrations are valid until the person is removed, either by the legal guardian, the individual (if competent and over 18), or upon request.
The registry may include information such as the person's name, contact details, personal identifying information, and details about their disability or condition. It also allows for the inclusion of information provided by the enrollee or the person who enrolled them. Local law enforcement agencies can provide relevant information from the registry to officers engaged in official duties.
Pretrial Release and Detention (SB1534)
Another bill taking effect today is Florida Senate Bill 1534, which relates to pretrial release and detention. The key provisions that take effect in 2024 include:
Child Protective Services (SB7056)
SB 7056 mandates the relocation of child protective investigation services from seven county sheriff's offices, which currently provide these services, back to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Beginning in the mid-1990s, the DCF engaged in contracts with Pinellas, Manatee, Broward, Pasco, Hillsborough, Seminole, and Walton counties to conduct child protective investigations within their jurisdictions. Of note, these 7 counties account for 25% of all children in Florida. This law designates the DCF as the exclusive entity responsible for child protective investigations statewide.
The law outlines specific details and timelines for the transfer, encompassing the transition of sheriff employees to the DCF, the transfer of records, assets, and finances, utilization of facilities, and the finalization of grant accounting.
Furthermore, the law stipulates that all staff in good standing, employed by each respective sheriff for child protective services before the legislation's effective date, will have the option to transfer their employment to the DCF. In cases where a claim or cause of action arises against a sheriff concerning child protective investigations before the transfer date, the defense and indemnification will adhere to the terms of the grant or agreement applicable at the time of the alleged incident. For claims or actions initiated after the transfer date, the responsibility for defense and indemnification falls upon the DCF.
It remains to be seen whether DCF will have the personnel to handle the additional caseload, and questions have previously been raised when children have died under DCF purview. However, there have also been cases where county caseworkers have similarly been questioned about abuse of children under their purview.
Air Force veteran, writing about the intersection of domestic policy and national security, especially as it effects his home state of Florida.