Florida's firefighters battling cancer will receive additional benefits while bills related to criminal justice reform and creating an agricultural hemp program are awaiting signature.
The Florida Senate and House on Friday respectively passed numerous bills on the final day to consider legislation other than the state budget.
The legislature also passed a bill that would help Florida's attorney general sue drug manufacturers and pharmacies in an effort to tackle the opioid crisis.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the firefighter benefits bill into law while other bills that passed are awaiting his signature to become law.
SIGNED: Florida Law Grants Benefits to Firefighter With Cancer
Cancer is now considered an on-the-job injury for Florida firefighters. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Friday granting certain benefits to firefighters upon diagnosis.
The bill was unanimously approved by both chambers last month.
The law provides firefighters with 21 forms of cancer the full cost of treatment along with a $25,000 payout. It also grants disability pay and death benefits for beneficiaries.
Occurrences of cancer amongst firefighters are higher when compared to the general population, according to a Scientific Reports study.
According to a release sent out by the governor's office, 70% of firefighter line-of-duty deaths in 2016 were cancer-related.
Firefighters with cancer are eligible to receive workers compensation in more than half of the states in the U.S., according to the First Responder Center for Excellence.
According to the law, Florida firefighters would have to be tobacco-free for at least five years before diagnosis to be eligible.
PASSED: Bill Requires Florida Felons to Pay Court-Ordered Fees
Florida felons will have to pay court-ordered financial obligations if they want their voting rights restored under a bill going to DeSantis.
The House passed the bill Friday after outcry from Democrats who say forcing felons who've completed their prison sentences and probation to also pay court fees and fines goes against the spirit of the constitutional amendment voters passed in November.
The amendment to restore voting rights for felons other than murderers and sex offenders was approved with 64.5 percent of the vote. But the language said felons must complete their sentences, and Republicans interpreted that to include restitution, court costs, fines and fees imposed by a judge at sentencing. Democrats say that creates a hurdle that voters didn't intend when they approved the amendment.
PASSED: Florida Bill to Help State's Opioid Lawsuits
A bill to help the Florida attorney general sue drug manufacturers and pharmacies is heading to DeSantis.
The Senate unanimously passed a bill Friday that gives Attorney General Ashley Moody access to information in the state's prescription drug database to help her case against companies that make opioids and pharmacies that the state claims oversold pain pills and didn't take precautions against illegal sales.
The bill was a high priority for Moody, and senators praised her efforts to sue corporations they believe contributed to the opioid addiction epidemic.
The bill would let Moody track sales of opioids. She'll be able to see the cities, counties and zip codes where the drugs are sold and the patient's birth year. But patient information will be protected.
PASSED: Florida Massive Criminal Justice Bill
A massive criminal justice bill that revises laws ranging from selling horse meat for human consumption to raising the threshold for committing felony theft is heading to DeSantis.
The House unanimously approved the 350-page bill Friday, the last day to considering legislation other than the state budget.
It would raise the threshold for felony theft from $300 to $750. It would also reduce the penalty for a third offense of driving with a suspended license from a felony to a misdemeanor.
If signed by DeSantis, it will also create a task force to exam the state's sentencing policies and make recommended changes by June 30, 2020.
PASSED: Florida Bill to Create Agricultural Hemp Program
The state known for its oranges is now positioning itself to be a national leader in agricultural hemp awaiting DeSantis' signature.
The Senate unanimously passed a bill to create an agricultural hemp program, which is seen as a way to help farmers who have been battered by hurricanes and hurt by citrus diseases.
A federal farm bill passed in 2018 gave states the opportunity to develop a hemp-growing program that can be submitted to the U.S. Agriculture Department for approval.
Hemp is related to marijuana but only has trace amounts of THC, the chemical that makes people high. The plant has a wide range of uses, from ropes and clothing to building materials and animal feed.
The bill was a top priority for Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who was on the Senate floor for its final passage. Afterward, she said citrus will remain the state's top crop, but growers will be able to supplement their groves with hemp.
Growers have been plagued by two diseases: citrus canker and citrus greening. Canker causes blemishes on the fruit and greening kills the trees. Combined they've cost citrus growers billions of dollars in losses.
Fried said Florida's ability to grow hemp year-round and its large number of ports position the state to lead in production and exportation.