New Florida Laws Kick In Saturday

Published On: Oct 12 2011 03:39:11 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 01 2011 04:39:33 AM EDT

New restrictions on expert witnesses, minors seeking abortions, and local governments with gun ordinances kick in Saturday as new bills passed by lawmakers earlier this year go into effect.

In all, 29 new laws go on the books Oct. 1, the first day of many local governments' fiscal years and the last major push of legislation passed during the 2011 Legislative session.

Among the most controversial measures is one that places heavy fines on local governments that enact tougher gun laws than those imposed by the state. Despite being on the books for decades, laws prohibiting cities and counties from enacting stricter gun laws lacked any teeth. No more.

Backed by the National Rifle Association, the new law imposes penalties for local officials and fines of up to $100,000 in attorney fees and damages if a plaintiff successfully sues local officials gun laws that go beyond state law. City and county officials face fines up to $5,000 and can't use taxpayer money to defend themselves in court.

Local officials have spent the past few months repealing local ordinances deemed to be tougher than state law. The bill was one of a handful of NRA-backed measures pushed during the last legislative session. Another that restricts the ability of health care providers from asking patients about gun ownership is being challenged in federal court.

Also controversial is another law that kicks in Saturday. The bill (HB 1247) makes a number of changes to the current laws requiring parental notification when minor girls seek an abortion. Among the changes, the bill lengthens the time a judge has to act on request for a judicial bypass.

The measure also requires minors seeking a judicial waiver from the requirement to seek a judge within their judicial circuit. Minors can now seek a judge residing within their appellate district, a much larger geographic area.

Backers say the measure still provides protections for minors who feel they can't tell their parents. Critics say that in some small judicial circuits, the new law will make it difficult for the minor to remain anonymous.

Other bills that go into effect Saturday include: