Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed 36 bills into law including one that bans welfare recipients from using EBT cards at "adult entertainment establishments" like strip clubs and casinos.
The governor also signed a contentious environmental permitting bill, a measure dealing with "cyberbulling," and a bill dealing with school safety procedures.
The legislation (HB 701) targeting EBT cards created a heated debate in the Legislature.
EBT cards — standing for electronic benefit transfer — are like debit cards. Welfare recipients use them to draw down their benefits.
Critics called the bill offensive to poor people. But the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jimmie Smith, said that voting against his measure was like "voting for lap dances on taxpayer dollars."
Other bills signed by Scott included:
— Cyberbullying (HB 609): The new law would expand the authority of Florida's public schools to discipline students for cyberbullying done through use of a school computer, at the site of a school-sponsored activity or on a school bus. The legislation defines "cyberbullying" as harassment through the use of computers, technology or electronic communications.
— School safety (SB 284): The measure requires public safety agencies to notify private schools when an emergency threatening student safety occurs. The legislation also authorizes public and private schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto injectors in a secure location for use in an emergency situation by authorized students and trained school personnel.
— Environmental permitting (HB 999): This wide-ranging bill includes a provision that will end a legal challenge to two no-bid, 30-year lease extensions for sugar and vegetable farming in the state-owned Everglades Agricultural Area.
Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet approved the leases on about 14,000 acres in Palm Beach County in exchange for other property needed for Everglades restoration.
One of the lawyers challenging the leases called the extensions contrary to the public interest because they would continue the flow of agricultural pollutants into the Everglades for an excessive period.
The legislation, however, declares that the leases are not contrary to public interest and will help the state with its overall Everglades restoration efforts.
Scott also signed a bill that would aid victims of human trafficking. The new law (HB 1325) would aid victims who are coerced into various types of servitude, including those forced to work in the sex trade, and allow a victim to petition a court to expunge records of any convictions while the victim was being coerced.
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