New state laws in effect Sunday aim to tackle drug abuse, minimum wage

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - On January 1, Floridians will be subject to several new and updated laws.

People in Bay County will also see changes. Starting Sunday, they'll be paying a voter-approved half cent sales tax that will support road improvements and infrastructure projects for the next ten years. County leaders estimate those half cents will add up over time to a total of $20 million.

Starting January 3, Florida will also officially have legal medical marijuana. But Bay County, following Panama City and Panama City Beach, has issued a moratorium on dispensaries and use until state regulations are in place.

Also in 2017, Florida's minimum wage earners will see a slight pay raise of a nickel an hour. Pay will go up to $8.10 an hour. Some state leaders are fighting for a greater hike of $15 per hour.

This January, Florida will see two new laws that could affect what goes into your medicine cabinet. Two different laws are aimed at reducing abuse of over-the-counter and prescription medications. But they could cost you more time and paperwork the next time you go to the pharmacy.

Senate Bill 938 aims to crack down on teenagers trying to buy over-the-counter medicines with dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant. The new law prohibits the sale to or purchase of those products by anyone younger than 18. It's an attempt to prevent them from drinking enough to a buzz which can be lethal in certain quantities.

"At those doses [it] may suppress the ability, especially for young people, to breathe," said Laura Gould, the owner of RX-Express in Panama City. "We've had some deaths and hospitalizations. Many, many ER visits."

Gould said she used to work at Bay Medical Sacred Heart and could attest to those effects. She believes it's a good idea.

"Actually when I worked at Wal-Mart they found a kid in the bathroom who'd overdosed on it," she said.

Gould said they'll start checking the IDs of anyone who appears to be younger than 25.

Also prescribed by law is a new attempt to curtail opiate addiction. Senate Bill 422 now requires insurance companies to treat generic, fast-acting opiate medications the same as more expensive kinds which are specially made to prevent abuse like snorting.

"This bottle cost around $1,000 for 60 of them," Gould said, holding up the bottle containing the abuse-deterrent opioid. "And this bottle is about $12 for 100 of them. So you can see there's a big price difference. But this law is aiming to make the playing field the same for both medications."

Gould admits the policy is complicated, especially when it comes to insurance rates and the abilities/shortcomings of each drug. But she said you may see more paperwork and longer lines at your pharmacy.

"So we'll see," she said chuckling.

And finally, the state will also oversee a new law relating to the service of process on financial institutions.

According to Steve Moss, a financial adviser in Panama City, the law requires financial institutions to designate a specific place where people can serve papers or sue the financial institution.

According to the bill text, it is "revising applicability of provisions of law governing service of process on financial institutions; authorizing certain financial institutions to designate with the Department of State a place or registered agent within the state as the sole location or agent for service of process, notice, levy, or demand; providing that service of process, notice, levy, or demand may be made at specified time periods."