Last month, I had the pleasure of attending The Florida Bar Annual Convention in Boca Raton, Florida. The four-day-long convention offers legal professionals the opportunity to attend continuing legal education seminars, section and committee meetings, an exhibition (to learn about the latest products and services available), and social functions (for lawyers to connect and network with one another). It was my first year attending the convention, and I look forward to making it an annual tradition.
The seminar that I found most valuable was the Florida Law Update 2023, which was presented by The Florida Bar and the Solo & Small Firm Section. I’ve outlined some of the key takeaways and learnings that will (or will potentially) impact Floridians below.
“Ban the Box” Law
In December 2022, the city of Gainesville, Florida, passed a “Ban the Box” law prohibiting employers (with 15 or more staff members) from asking questions about criminal history during the job application process. Employers are still permitted to conduct a criminal background check once a conditional job offer has been made; however, an employer may not take adverse action against an individual because of the individual’s criminal history unless the employer has determined that the individual is unsuitable for the job based on an individualized assessment conducted by the employer. Learn more about the “Ban the Box” law (The City of Gainesville Code of Ordinances, Chapter 14.5, Section 14.5-181).
Medical Marijuana Employee Protection Act
This bill (HB 1065) has been proposed and will impact the 700,000 and growing medical marijuana patients in the state of Florida. If passed, public employers will be prohibited from taking adverse personnel action against employees or job applicants who are qualified patients for their use of medical marijuana. This means that public employers are not able to refuse to hire an applicant or fire an existing employee that tests positive on a drug test for marijuana without giving the applicant or employee the right to explain the positive marijuana test result within a specified time frame.
To Compete or Non-Compete
A non-compete agreement is a contract between an employer and an employee that is typically signed at the beginning of their business relationship. The agreement prohibits the employee from competing with the business directly or indirectly for a specific duration of time after their employment has ended. Non-compete agreements are recognized and enforceable under Florida law (Florida Statute 542.335). However, they’re trending to become disfavored.
In January 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed a new rule (Matter P201200) that would ban employers from imposing non-competes on their workers. The FTC argues that non-compete clauses significantly reduce workers’ wages, stifle new businesses and new ideas, and exploit workers and hinder economic liberty. The FTC reports that one in five American workers, approximately 30 million people, are currently bound by a non-compete clause and are thus restricted from better employment opportunities. If the proposed rule is passed, it is estimated that workers’ earnings would increase by nearly $300 billion per year, consumers would save up to $148 billion annually on health care costs, and the number of companies founded by a former worker in the same industry would double.
CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act
In October 2022, the Miami Beach City Commission voted unanimously to pass the CROWN Act, which prohibits discriminatory practices in housing, employment, public services, funding, or use of city facilities based on the texture of style of a person’s hair (commonly associated with race and natural origin).
The CROWN Act was first signed into law in California in 2019, and 27 states have passed similar laws. It has failed to pass in the Florida legislature, but efforts are ongoing.
Loss of Homestead Exemption – The Risk of Renting
In April 2023, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the Florida Homestead Tax Exemption and the Florida Save Our Homes Exemption could be reduced by a property appraiser if part of your home is rented out for commercial purposes (Furst v. Rebholz; No. SC2020-1479).
A provision in state law allows you to rent your home for a short term without affecting your homestead exemption. You can rent your home after January 1 of any year and still keep the homestead for that year, as long as the property is not rented for more than 30 days per calendar year for two consecutive years (section 196.061(1), Florida Statutes).
The Homestead Property Tax Exemption
According to the Florida Department of Revenue, when someone owns property and makes it his or her permanent residence or the permanent residence of his or her dependent, the property owner may be eligible to receive a homestead exemption of up to $50,000. The first $25,000 applies to all property taxes, including school district taxes. The additional exemption of up to $25,000 applies to the assessed value between $50,000 and $75,000 and only to non-school taxes (section 196.031, Florida Statutes).
The Save Our Homes Assessment Limitation
According to the Florida Department of Revenue, after the first year a home receives a homestead exemption and the property appraiser assesses it at a just value, the assessment for each following year cannot increase more than three percent or the percent change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is less.
Homeowners’ Insurance Reform
In March 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 837 into law. The bill makes several changes to the law, but significantly limits the rights of Floridian homeowners in three ways:
- The bill reduces Florida’s negligence statute of limitations from four years to two.
- The bill limits the amount of your medical bills that you are allowed to show to the jury at trial.
- The bill changes Florida from a pure comparative fault state to a modified comparative fault state.
To learn more about this bill, check out our blog post that examines these changes in detail.
2024 Ballot – Partisan School Board Elections
In April 2023, the Senate voted in favor of HJR 31 – Partisan Elections for Members of District School Boards. Thus, on the November 2024 ballot, Florida voters will be presented with a Constitutional amendment to change school board elections from non-partisan to partisan. It will also change the term limit from twelve to eight years. At least 60% of voters must approve of the measure for it to become law.
Street Racing, Street Takeovers, and Stunt Driving
Prior to October 2022, street racing was previously a traffic violation. However, Florida Statute 316.191 has changed it to a criminal offense. Racing includes burnouts, doughnuts, drag racing, drifting, stunt driving, and wheelies.
The law states that a person may not:
- Drive any motor vehicle in any street takeover, stunt driving, race, speed competition or contest, drag race or acceleration contest, test of physical endurance, or exhibition of speed or acceleration or for the purpose of making a speed record on any highway, roadway, or parking lot;
- In any manner participate in, coordinate through social media or otherwise, facilitate, or collect moneys at any location for any such race, drag race, street takeover, stunt driving, competition, contest, test, or exhibition;
- Knowingly ride as a passenger in any such race, drag race, street takeover, stunt driving, competition, contest, test, or exhibition;
- Purposefully cause the movement of traffic, including pedestrian traffic, to slow, stop, or be impeded in any way for any such race, drag race, street takeover, stunt driving, competition, contest, test, or exhibition;
- Operate a motor vehicle for the purpose of filming or recording the activities of participants in any such race, drag race, street takeover, stunt driving, competition, contest, test, or exhibition. This paragraph does not apply to bona fide members of the news media; or
- Operate a motor vehicle carrying any amount of fuel for the purposes of fueling a motor vehicle involved in any such race, drag race, street takeover, stunt driving, competition, contest, test, or exhibition.
Any person who violates this law commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $1,000 and a mandatory revocation of the driver’s license for one year. The punishment for subsequent violations within five years after the date of a prior violation are more severe.
The law is constantly evolving and changing. If you have any questions, the experienced lawyers at The Fina Law Firm are available to you for a free consultation. Contact us via phone at 904-878-2379, or send us an email at email@example.com.