Miami Herald: Alonzo Mourning act among new Florida laws going into effect

Sep 30, 2009

An act expanding insurance coverage for kidney transplants that’s named for retired Miami Heat basketball star Alonzo Mourning is among 28 new laws going into effect Thursday.

Some of the others will give state and local law enforcement officers the power to arrest people for human smuggling, crack down on the sale of stolen gold jewelry and require children under 16 to wear helmets while horseback riding.

Mourning, himself a kidney transplant recipient, met with lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Crist in April to seek their support for the legislation.

He returned to the capital city in June to watch Crist sign the Alonzo Mourning Access to Care Act into law at a Tallahassee dialysis center.

“You should not have to exhaust your assets in order to cater to your health care,” Mourning said at the signing ceremony.

The new law will let patients with end-stage renal disease and other disabilities obtain Medigap insurance if they already qualify for Medicare. That will count as the second of two coverages needed to get on a waiting list for a kidney transplant.

The new law is expected to make 11,050 end-stage renal disease patients and 200,000 patients with other disabilities eligible for Medigap — private insurance that picks up expenses not covered by Medicare — including 2,000 who then would become eligible for transplants.

State and local law enforcement officers before Thursday were powerless to arrest smugglers bringing illegal immigrants into Florida because there was no state law against it.

If they ran across smugglers, all they could do was call for federal agents and the suspects often got away in the meantime.

The new law sets a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Prosecutions, though, probably will be rare because the suspects are expected to be handed over to federal authorities in most cases.

Starting Thursday, second-hand dealers that buy mail-in gold jewelry will have to photograph all items and provide the pictures as well as the name, address, phone number, e-mail address and driver’s license number of each seller to law enforcement officials.

The law is designed to prevent thieves from disposing of their loot through mail-in sales.

Any person who allows a child to ride a horse on public roads without a helmet can be fined $500 under a new law named for Nicole Hornstein, a 12-year-old Palm Beach County girl who died in 2006 after being thrown from the saddle. She was not wearing a helmet.

Another new law will cut some red tape and streamline procedures for business and professional people who are regulated by the state while expanding regulatory requirements in some areas.

The law will eliminate the practical portion of the barbers’ exam and state testing for certified public accountants that duplicates a national exam. It also will drop a requirement that signatures be notarized on all applications and renewals.

Other provisions will let the Florida Boxing Commission adopt safety standards for amateur mixed martial arts events, require talent agencies to provide certain records for state inspection on request and limit an exemption from real estate continuing education for lawyers only to those in good standing with the Florida Bar.

Regulation of surveyors and mappers will move from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.