Florida: Bishops Appeal to Governor Scott to Stop Execution

Florida Bishops Appeal to Governor Scott to Stop

Execution of David Alan Gore
The Bishops of Florida ask you, Governor Scott, to resist the natural instinct to punish the evil deeds of David Alan Gore with the ultimate penalty –death by lethal injection. Gore’s heinous crimes have terribly wronged the victims and their families.  We, too, feel the anger, revulsion. But responding to murder by killing the criminal sanctions violence.  The claim for justice needs to be balanced by mercy. Society can be protected and justice served by keeping Mr. Gore in prison until his natural death.

 

Our hearts were touched by the soul wrenching stories about the six women who died at his hands. We pray for consolation for their families who have suffered, knowing the pain their loved ones endured at the hands of Mr. Gore. Revenge does not bring peace, only forgiveness as proclaimed by our Lord on the cross when he said, “Forgive them, Father! They don’t know what they are doing.” (Lk 23:34)

All human life has dignity and is sacred, created in God’s image, even those who have done great harm. Violence begets violence and coarsens the culture so that life is no longer valued as a gift from God. Today, we are able to protect society and also give criminals a chance to reform and repent.  Governor, we ask you to stay to execution of David Alan Gore.

 

Most Reverend Thomas G. Wenski

Archdiocese of Miami

Most Revered Gerald M. Barbarito

Diocese of Palm Beach

Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch

Diocese of St. Petersburg

Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane

Diocese of Venice

Most Reverend John G. Noonan

Diocese of Orlando

Most Reverend Felipe J. Estévez

Diocese of St. Augustine

  Most Reverend Thomas G. Wenski

Apostolic Administrator

Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee

 

 

 

 

Florida: Week Nine Summary

March 5 – March 9, 2012
NINTH WEEK OF THE 2012 REGULAR LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Each Friday afternoon during the 60-day Session, the Conference highlights legislative action on priority bills and provides a summary of activities of interest at the Capitol. For additional bills closely followed by Florida Catholic Conference staff, see the legislative bill report, which is updated on a daily basis.

The Regular Session of the Florida Legislature came to a close (sine die) at 12:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 10. The motion to adjourn sine die, Latin for without day, is the last action of a session of the legislature. The legislature will convene in a Reapportionment Special Session beginning on Wednesday, March 14.

A concluding session summary that identifies the final status of bills closely followed by the Conference will be made available to the FCC Advocacy Network early next week.

President Haridopolos Highlighted Legislative Action for the Week
During the last few days of the session, farewell speeches were given by several members who reached their term limit. This included the Senate President and House Speaker as their two-year term as leaders of their respective chambers came to an end.

Senator Don Gaetz is designated the incoming Senate President. House Speaker-Designate is Rep. Will Weatherford.

Speaker Cannon

BUDGET
The House and Senate chambers approved a $70 billion state budget for fiscal year 2012-2013. The general appropriations bill passed the House (80-37) and Senate (32-8). The budget will now go to the governor who has line item veto authority. Passing the budget is the only required duty of the legislature during the session.

Pregnancy Support Services – A $2 million allocation for crisis pregnancy centers was included in the final budget. Funding for the program has been in the budget since 2006 and supports a network of crisis pregnancy centers that provide counseling, medically-accurate information and resources for pregnant women.

KidCare Expansion - We are pleased that provisions of SB 510 (Rich) to expand KidCare coverage to children of lower-income state workers has been included in a budget conforming bill, which becomes law. Legal immigrant children, whom the Conference sought to incorporate, are not included at this time.

Medicaid Rate Cuts - The budget contains a 5.6 percent rate cut in Medicaid reimbursement for hospitals and an overall projected loss in Medicaid payments of $323.6 million to Florida Hospitals. Nursing Homes received a 1.25 percent reduction. Cuts to the Florida Medicaid program that serves low-income families, children, the elderly and disabled reduce access to care for all Floridians. There is concern for patients as well as the broader community with jobs, critical services and capital projects in jeopardy of being downsized or eliminated.

LIFE AND DEATH
Abortion
A procedural vote was taken in the Senate chamber on whether to withdraw SB 290 (Flores) from committee and bring it to the floor. A 23-16 vote in favor of hearing the bill fell short of the required two-thirds majority, killing the bill for this legislative session. Bill provisions included requiring care of an infant born alive as the result of an attempted abortion, providing women information 24 hours prior to an abortion, and requiring any abortion clinics licensed after July 2012 to be owned and operated by physicians with specified training. House companion HB 277 (Burgin) passed the House last week (78-33). We thank our FCC Advocacy Network members who acted to urge Senate leaders to withdraw SB 290 (Flores) from committee and hear it on the floor.

SOCIAL CONCERNS

Senator Joyner Restraint of Incarcerated Pregnant Women
The House took up SB 524 (Joyner) in place of CS/HB 367 (Reed), amended the Senate bill and passed it (114-1). The Senate concurred with the amendment and passed the final bill (40-0). The bill prohibits the use of restraints on a pregnant inmate during labor, delivery and postpartum recovery unless it is determined that the prisoner presents an extraordinary risk. The Conference supported the measure, and it goes next to the governor.

Inmate Reentry
CS/CS/HB 177 (Porth) was taken up by the Senate in place of CS/SB 448 (Bogdanoff) and passed (40-0). The bill directs the Department of Corrections to develop and administer a reentry program for nonviolent offenders that would allow judges to reduce the sentences of inmates who successfully complete the program. This measure was supported by the Conference. It goes next to the governor.

Human Trafficking

HB 7049 (Snyder) was substituted in the Senate for CS/SB 1880 (Flores) and passed (38-0). The bill strengthens state law by providing additional jurisdiction for the Office of Statewide Prosecution, increasing criminal penalties for persons who engage in human trafficking and human smuggling, and enhancing penalties for those who traffic minors and persons not legally authorized to work in the United States. The Conference supported this measure, which will go to the governor. 

SB 80 (Joyner) passed the Senate (39-0). In an effort to reduce the trafficking of persons, the bill requires employees of massage parlors to have valid work authorization documents on the premises. The language of this bill was previously amended to HB 7049 (Snyder).

Senator Flores

Sexual Exploitation
CS/HB 99 (Fresen) was substituted in the Senate for CS/SB 202 (Flores), passed (39-0), and will go to the governor. The bill authorizes placement of juveniles alleged to be sexually exploited in short-term safe houses. The Conference supported this measure.

Senator Negron Children
CS/CS/HB 227 (Stargel)
, which creates the Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns, was substituted in the Senate for CS/SB 402 (Negron) and passed (39-0). The measure was supported by the Conference and goes next to the governor.

Individuals with Disabilities / Service Animals
SB 1382 (Bennett) was amended and passed in the Senate (39-0). The bill was then sent to the House where it died in messages. Companion CS/HB 1077 (Kriseman) died on the House calendar on second reading. The bill would have provided individuals with a disability who are accompanied by a service animal certain rights with regard to public or housing accommodations. The Conference supported this measure.

HEALTH
Florida Kidcare Program
CS/SB 510 (Rich) passed the Senate (37-0) and removes the prohibition on children of state employees from participating in the Kidcare program if they are otherwise eligible. House companion HB 849 (Schwartz) was never heard in committee; however, provisions of the measure were included in a budget conforming bill that passed both chambers. The Conference supported this measure.
Senator Rich

EDUCATION

Rep. Corcoran Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program
CS/HB 859 (Corcoran) was passed this week in the House (92-24) and sent to the Senate where it was substituted for CS/SB 962 (Benacquisto). Prior to the bill passing the Senate (32-8), an amendment that would have prohibited the state from imposing requirements on the curriculum of a private school regardless of whether it chooses to administer the FCAT failed to be adopted. This bill increases the funding cap for the FTC Scholarship Program from $175 million to $229 million. The bill also eliminates the eligibility requirement that students in grades 2-5 have attended public school the prior year. The Conference supported this measure, and it goes next to the governor.

High School Athletics
Despite an effort by the Conference and our FCC Advocacy Network to urge defeat, CS/HB 1403 (Stargel) was taken up by the Senate in place of CS/SB 1704 (Wise) and narrowly passed (21-18). This measure, which will now go to the governor, opens the door to an independent athletic association which may not have to follow National Federation of State High School Associations’ guidelines. Other provisions of the bill related to student athlete eligibility and recruitment would make for an “unlevel playing field” and undermine both the Florida High School Athletic Association and participating high schools. We thank all those who contacted their senator to ask that he or she oppose this measure.

Youth Athletes
CS/HB 291 (Renuart)
, which requires the adoption of policies relating to concussion and head injury in youth athletes, was substituted by the Senate for CS/SB 256 (Flores) and passed (39-0). This measure was monitored by the Conference and will go next to the governor.
Rep. Renuart

Florida: Legislative Update

January 10-13, 2012
FIRST WEEK OF THE 2012 REGULAR LEGISLATIVE SESSION
The annual Session of the Florida Legislature was opened Tuesday, January 10 and is scheduled to conclude Friday, March 9, 2012. Each Friday afternoon during the 60-day Session, the Conference highlights legislative action on priority bills and provides a summary of activities of interest at the Capitol. For filed bills closely followed by Florida Catholic Conference staff, see the legislative bill report, which is updated on a daily basis.

Two constitutionally required duties of the legislature are expected to dominate much of the 2012 Session: redistricting and passing a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Once-a-decade after receipt of census data, legislators are required to redraw state legislative and Congressional district boundaries. After public hearings across the state to gather input from Florida residents, House and Senate subcommittees are working to develop proposals that will eventually be presented to the full chambers. Due to population growth, Florida will be adding two Congressional districts, increasing our state’s representation in the U.S. House to 27.

This year, lawmakers are facing a budget shortfall of nearly $2 billion requiring tough budget decisions that may lead to cuts in programs for our state’s poor and vulnerable populations.


Opening Session Remarks and State of the State

To a joint session of the legislature, the Governor delivered his State of the State address. In his speech, he appealed to legislators to lower taxes on small businesses and eliminate unnecessary regulations, require greater accountability for Workforce Boards and job training for those receiving unemployment, and continue a commitment to education by increasing school choices for Florida’s parents and significantly increasing state funding for education.

Watch Governor Rick Scott’s State of the State Address


Highlighted Bill Action This Week
SOCIAL CONCERNS
Human Trafficking
The House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a Proposed Committee Bill (JDC1) that provides additional jurisdiction for the Office of Statewide Prosecution relating to human trafficking and increases the criminal penalty for a person who knowingly engages in human trafficking from a second degree felony to a first degree felony and for human smuggling from a first degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony. During the committee meeting, Conference staff stated support for the measure. A companion bill, SB 1880 (Flores), has been filed in the Senate.

An additional human trafficking related bill, SB 80 (Joyner), was passed favorably by Criminal Justice (6-0). Conference staff indicated support for the measure. This bill requires employees of massage parlors to have valid work authorization documents on the premises. This provision was added to JDC1 in the House.

Homelessness
HB 531 (Reed) was reported favorably with a Committee Substitute by the Health and Human Services Access Subcommittee (14-0). Conference staff stated support for the bill during the committee meeting. This bill requires the motor vehicle registration form and driver license application to include an option to make a voluntary contribution to aid the homeless and establishes a homelessness prevention grant program. The measure goes next to the House Appropriations Committee. Companion SB 1130 (Storms) is referred to Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.

Children
CS/SB 402 (Negron) creates the Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns and was reported favorably with a Committee Substitute by the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations (7-0). This was the second committee of reference for the bill, which passed Health Regulation unanimously during the committee weeks prior to the start of the session. It goes next to Senate Budget. CompanionHB 227 (Stargel) is now in the House Health and Human Services Quality Subcommittee. The measure is supported by the Conference.

HEALTH
Florida Kidcare Program
SB 510 (Rich) removes the prohibition on children of state employees from participating in the Kidcare program if they are otherwise eligible. The bill was found favorable with a Committee Substitute by Senate Health Regulation (7-0) and is referred next to Budget. Conference staff waived testimony and stated support for the measure during the committee meeting. House companion HB 849 (Schwartz) is now in Health and Human Services Access Subcommittee.

EDUCATION
Student Safety
HB 273 (Kiar) requires emergency response agencies responsible for notifying school districts of emergencies to also notify private schools in the district. The bill having been found favorable by its first reference during committee weeks preceding the session was reported favorably this week by the Community and Military Affairs Subcommittee (13-0) and is now in the Education Committee. Senate companion, SB 494 (Negron), has been referred to Education Pre-K-12. The measure is supported by the Conference.

Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program
SB 962 (Benacquisto) was found favorable with a Committee Substitute this week by Education Pre-K-12 (4-2) and is now in the Budget Subcommittee on Finance and Tax. This bill, which is supported by the Conference, increases the funding cap for the FTC Scholarship Program from $175 million to $250 million, allowing as many as 6500 more students from low-income families to access the program. During the past school year, the program grew to serve approximately 35,000 students, of which 4,120 were in Catholic schools. A related but not identical bill, HB 859 (Corcoran), is now in the House Finance and Tax Committee.

Florida: Newsletter

January 10 – March 9, 2012
REGULAR SESSION of the FLORIDA LEGISLATURE 
What to Expect from the Florida Catholic Conference 
During the 60 day legislative session, the Florida Catholic Conference provides regular reports and updates on issues that pertain to the protection of the right to life, respect for human dignity and promotion of the common good. All information is provided electronically to Catholic faithful and interested others by way of the FCC Advocacy Network. If you have received this messge from a friend, and you are not already a member of the FCC Advocacy Network, click here to join.

Legislative Bill Report - updated daily
The Conference’s Legislative Report identifies filed bills that are being advocated for or against, or closely followed, by Conference staff on behalf of the Bishops of Florida. A description of each bill, position advocated and current status are provided. Updates to the report are made daily with action taken by the legislature on all previously identified and any additional bills of concern. You may view the current report on the Conference’s website by clicking here.

Weekly Session Summaries 
Beginning this Friday and continuing each Friday afternoon during the legislative session, the Conference will provide the FCC Advocacy Network with summaries of significant legislative action on issues of concern to the Church and reports on activities of interest at the Capitol.

Calls for Action 
As priority bills move through the legislative process, action alerts will be sent that request Network members to contact their legislators to urge support or opposition to proposed legislation. By using our online system, messages can be sent easily and quickly to lawmakers as they discern proposed legislation that touches the core values of Florida Catholics and impacts all residents of our state.

Florida Bishops Say Society Needs Forgiveness Not Vengeance

The Catholic bishops of Florida make the following plea to Governor Rick Scott regarding the scheduled execution of Oba Chandler:

The bishops of Florida appeal to you, Governor Scott, to stop the cycle of violence that is fueled by the desire for vengeance and commute the sentence of Oba Chandler, scheduled for execution on November 15, to life in prison without possibility of parole. All of us feel deep sorrow for the horrific loss experienced by the Rogers family who tragically lost Joan, Michelle and Christe in a terrifying killing. Sadly, in ours and a handful of foreign countries, we resort to purposely killing a human being as retribution.

Some crimes are so serious and heinous that many would consider it unjust for the perpetrator to receive any sentence other than death as the ultimate punishment. We join all citizens in crying for justice. But justice can be done without inflicting more killing. The Gospel message of reconciliation requires charity toward all who are our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter the transgression. The death penalty contributes to the devaluation of human life and promotes the culture of death. Forgiveness, not revenge, is the better path to healing for victims and their families.

Justice can be satisfied without taking life as reflected in Chapter 33, verse 11 of the Book of Ezekiel: “As I live says the Lord God, I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man’s conversion, that he may live.” Governor, please keep Oba Chandler in prison for the rest of his life until natural death.

Most Reverend Thomas G. Wenski

Archdiocese of Miami

Most Revered Gerald M. Barbarito

Diocese of Palm Beach

Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch

Diocese of St. Petersburg

Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane

Diocese of Venice

Most Reverend John G. Noonan

Diocese of Orlando

Most Reverend Felipe J. Estévez

Diocese of St. Augustine

For additional information on the Catholic Church’s teaching on the death penalty, see the Florida Catholic Conference death penalty web page.

Florida: Catholic Bishops of Florida Ask Governor Scott to Spare the Life of Manuel Valle

 In an August 3, 2011 letter to Governor Rick Scott, the bishops of Florida urged the governor to stay the execution of Manuel Valle scheduled for September 1, 2011. Non-lethal means of punishment protect society and respect the life of all persons, even those who have done great harm. Text of the letter follows:

Dear Governor Scott,

We renew our appeal to you to end the use of the death penalty in our state. We urge you to stay the execution of Manuel Valle scheduled for September 1, 2011.

We concede the right of the State to impose the death penalty when absolutely necessary, that is when it is otherwise impossible to defend society.  However, given the ability of Florida to protect its residents by incarcerating inmates for life without possibility of parole, we pray you will exercise that option.

Willful murder is a heinous crime; it cries to God for justice.  Yet, God did not require Cain’s life for having spilt Abel’s blood.  While God certainly punished history’s first murderer, he nevertheless put a mark on him to protect Cain from those wishing to kill him to avenge Abel’s murder (cf. Genesis 4:15).  Like Cain, the condemned prisoner on death row – for all the evil of his crimes – remains a person.  Human dignity – that of the convicted as well as our own – is best served by not resorting to this extreme and unnecessary punishment.  Modern society has the means to protect itself without the death penalty. …More

Additional information on the Catholic Church’s teaching on the death penalty:

Death Penalty Facts and Catholic Church Teaching

Florida Catholic Conference’s Death Penalty Web Page

Florida: 2011 Legislative Session Highlights

In several key areas, the work of the Conference to engage legislators and encourage just decisions on behalf of the residents of our state was met with success during the March 8 through May 7 regular session of the Florida legislature. Three of the four issues advocated by participants at this year’s Catholic Days at the Capitol were passed this session.
Prolife legislation helps to ensure protections for unborn; safeguards health of women in Florida
The legislature passed five prolife bills. Three of the measures currently await the governor’s signature: CS/HB 1127 (Porter) requires an ultrasound be performed and reviewed with a woman prior to an abortion; HB 1247 (Stargel) strengthens parental notice of abortion provisions; and HB 501 (Baxley) provides for fees collected on the Choose Life license plate to go to Choose Life, Inc. for distribution. Recently signed by the governor, CS/HB 97 (Gaetz, M.) restricts the use of public dollars to pay for abortion in the health exchange established by federal health reform.

CS/HJR 1179 (Baxley) proposes an amendment to Florida’s Constitution to prohibit public funding of abortions and prohibit our State Constitution from being interpreted to create broader rights to an abortion than the U.S. Constitution. Constitutional amendments bypass the governor, and the proposal is expected to appear on the 2012 General Election ballot.

Religious Freedom Act to be placed before voters in 2012
CS/HJR 1471 (Plakon) proposes an amendment to the State Constitution to provide, consistent with the U.S. Constitution, that no individual or entity be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding or other support. The proposal is expected to appear on the 2012 General Election ballot.

McKay Scholarship Program for students with disabilities expanded
CS/HB 1329 (Bileca), which has been signed by the governor, expands program eligibility to include students with mental or physical disabilities such as diabetes, cerebral palsy, autism, etc. on “504 accommodation plans”. The proposal streamlines the McKay entry process and helps parents with more than one child keep their children together at the same school when one child has a disability.

Punitive measures against immigrants fail
A Senate passed immigration bill died in the House, where it was not taken up for consideration. CS/SB 2040 (Judiciary) would have mandated state workforce centers to verify employment eligibility using the federal E-verify program, persons seeking public benefits to undergo screening to determine immigration status and local and state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of suspects following an arrest. A House version, CS/HB 7089 (Snyder), was passed in committee but not heard by the full House. See our Immigration Web page for activity in opposition to immigration legislation at the state level.

Florida: Week Summary and Sine Die

May 2 – May 6, 2011
NINTH WEEK OF THE 2011 REGULAR LEGISLATIVE SESSION
The legislative session came to a close (sine die) at 3:35 a.m. on Saturday, May 7.
(The motion to adjourn sine die, Latin for without day, is the last action of a session of the legislature.)

In addition to the bill activity in this summary, our full legislative report provides the final status of legislation closely followed by the Florida Catholic Conference. The report also provides links to all full Senate and House votes, the Florida Senate and House Web sites and access to a glossary of legislative terms.
HIGHLIGHTED ACTIVITY FOR THE WEEK
Budget Summary
On Friday, the House and Senate chambers approved a $69.7 billion state budget. SB 2000, the general appropriations bill, passed the House (79-39) and Senate (31-8). The budget will now go to the governor who has line item veto authority.

Throughout the session, the Conference encouraged Senate and House leaders and budget chairs to pursue fiscal policies that preserve life, promote families, and protect the most vulnerable. The status of specific funding issues engaged by the Conference follows:

Pregnancy Support Services – A $2 million allocation for crisis pregnancy centers was included in the final budget. Funding for the program has been in the budget since 2006 and maintains a network of 50 crisis pregnancy centers that provide counseling, information and resources for pregnant women.

Programs for the Homeless – Early in the session, the Conference advocated for funding to serve homeless populations at risk of being eliminated from our state budget. Efforts were met with success when both the House and Senate Health Appropriations Committees restored funding for these programs, including the Office of Homelessness at the Department of Children and Families and an additional $366,000 allocated for Homeless Transition Programs.

Agency for Persons with Disabilities Deficit – The Conference urged the Senate to accept the House budget position that included funds to help resolve a $174 million deficit in the Medicaid program that serves about 30,000 developmentally disabled individuals. The Senate conceded to the House allocation.

Affordable Housing Trust Fund – A budget agreement between the House and Senate removed proposals to permanently redirect the Housing Trust Funds to general revenue; however, there is a permanent redirection of $75 million per year starting in fiscal year 2012-2013 to the State Enhancement Economic Development (SEED) Trust Fund. In addition, the Senate gave final approval (37-2) to HB 639 (Aubuchon), which repeals the cap on the Sadowski Housing Trust Funds. If the governor signs the bill into law, a five-year effort to “scrap the cap” will be accomplished. The Sadowski Affordable House Trust Fund benefits local affordable housing efforts that assist families with home ownership or rental housing.

Health Budget – The budget includes a 12 percent Medicaid rate cut for hospitals. Children’s hospitals will see a 4 percent cut and nursing homes 6.5 percent. Such substantial cuts are likely to result in job losses and paring down of services. Medically Needy and Medicaid for Aged and Disabled, significant programs which provide benefits to vulnerable populations, were preserved in the budget.
Life and Death
Abortion Constitutional Amendment
CS/HJR 1179 (Baxley), amended by the Senate last week, was returned to the House and passed (79-34). This joint resolution proposes amendments to the Florida Constitution to prohibit public funding of abortions and prohibit our State Constitution from being interpreted to create broader rights to an abortion than the U.S. Constitution. Constitutional amendments bypass the governor, and the proposal is expected to appear on the 2012 General Election ballot. Sixty (60) percent of the vote is required for passage.
Ultrasound Before Abortion
The Senate took up CS/HB 1127 (Porter), and it passed (24-15). It will now go to the governor for his signature. The bill was previously passed by the House and substituted in the Senate for CS/SB 1744 (Storms). The bill requires an ultrasound be performed and reviewed with a woman prior to an abortion. The woman may decline to view and hear a description of the ultrasound by signing an opt out form.

Sen. Rhonda Storms

Sen. Alan Hays
Parental Notice of Abortion
HB 1247 (Stargel) was substituted in the Senate for SB 1770 (Hays) and passed (26-12). This bill was previously passed in the House and will go to the governor for his signature. The measure strengthens the parental notice mandate by requiring a notarized letter from a parent that waives the right to be notified, providing maturity standards for judges to consider and limiting the court in which a minor may seek a judicial bypass to the circuit in which she resides.
Choose Life License Plate
The Senate took up HB 501 (Baxley) in place of CS/CS/SB 196 (Fasano) and amended it before passing (28-10). The bill went back to the House where it passed (83-33). It will now go to the governor. The measure provides that fees collected on the specialty plate be forwarded to Choose Life, Inc. for distribution to crisis pregnancy centers assisting women considering an adoption plan for their child. Currently the fees go to counties for distribution.

News Release: Catholic Bishops of Florida Praise Passage of Pro-life Bills by Florida Legislature
Social Concerns
Immigration
CS/SB 2040 (Judiciary) was passed by the Senate (23-16) and sent to the House, where it was not taken up. The Senate strike-all amendment required the state’s workforce centers to verify employment eligibility using the federal E-verify program. It also required persons seeking public benefits to undergo screening to determine immigration status and local and state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of suspects following an arrest. Late in the session, Senator Alexander, recipient of the Defensor Dignitatis (Defender of Dignity) award at this year’s Catholic Days at the Capitol, was tasked by the Senate President with leading immigration reform. During debate, Senator Alexander, a citrus grower, spoke compassionately about the positive contributions of immigrants to our state and voted against the final bill.

Sen. JD Alexander

The House’s immigration bill, CS/HB 7089 (Snyder), had previously passed its committees of reference but was not heard in the House chamber before the end of session.

See the Conference’s Immigration Web page for activity completed this session in opposition to immigration legislation at the state level.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
This proposed legislation requires all individuals applying for benefits through the TANF Program to undergo and pay for a drug test. After being amended by the House to require the state to pay for the tests of individuals found negative for controlled substances, HB 353 (Smith, J.) passed (78-38). The House bill was substituted for CS/SB 556 (Oelrich) in the Senate and passed (26-11). It will now be available for the governor’s signature.

Juvenile Civil Citations
CS/HB 997 (Pilon) unanimously passed both the House and Senate and will go to the governor. This legislation requires juvenile offenders charged with a first-time misdemeanor to participate in a local civil citation diversion program rather than serve a term of incarceration. The House bill was substituted for CS/SB 1300 (Storms) in the Senate.

School Nutrition Programs
The House voted (115-1) to move oversight of school nutrition programs from the Department of Education to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, sending CS/CS/SB 1312 (Siplin) to the governor for approval. The bill establishes a partnership between Florida agriculture and local school districts to provide children with well-balanced school meals using access to local produce.

Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council
SB 898 (Bennett) deletes the sunset provision that would have abolished the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council. The bill was passed unanimously in both the House and Senate and will go to the governor. Sheila Hopkins, Associate Director of Social Concerns/Respect Life, is the current Chair of the Advisory Council.
Health

Sen. Joe Negron
Health Insurance Exchange
After being amended last week by the Senate, CS/HB 97 (Gaetz, M.) was returned to the House where it received final passage (80-35). This measure restricts abortion coverage when a subsidy is used to purchase insurance in the future state exchange established by federal health reform and will now go to the governor.

Medicaid Reform
The legislature passed Medicaid legislation to shift almost all beneficiaries into managed care plans. Senator Joe Negron, sponsor of the Senate bill, was instrumental in adding conscience protections for Catholic health plans that may participate in Medicaid’s managed care expansion.
Education
McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities
CS/HB 1329 (Bileca) previously passed the House and was taken up by the Senate. The bill was substituted for CS/SB 1656 (Wise) and passed (28-9). It will now go to the governor for his signature.

We thank our FCC Advocacy Network members who urged their senators to vote ‘yes’ to expand the McKay program and offer additional education options for students with disabilities.

Florida Tax Credit Scholarship
CS/HB 965 (Horner) was amended by the House to remove a provision that would have authorized the Department of Revenue to provide eligible scholarship-funding organizations a list of the top 100 state corporate taxpayers. The amended bill increases the allowable tax credit from 75 to 100 percent of the contribution made by qualifying companies to the program and passed the House (96-18). It was substituted for CS/SB 1388 (Flores) in the Senate and passed (34-5).

Virtual Schools
CS/CS/HB 7197 (K-20 Innovation; Stargel) passed the House (98-19). The Senate took up the bill in place of CS/SB 1620 (Flores), and it passed (27-12). The measure expands virtual or online education options by allowing charter schools to offer virtual classes and permitting additional grade levels to participate in virtual education programs. The bill also mandates all high school students to take one online class prior to graduation.

Other
Religious Freedom
CS/HJR 1471 (Plakon), which previously passed the House, was substituted for SJR 1218 (Altman) in the Senate and passed (26-10). This joint resolution proposes an amendment to the State Constitution to provide, consistent with the U.S. Constitution, that no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding or other support. Constitutional amendments bypass the governor, and the proposal is expected to appear on the 2012 General Election ballot. Sixty (60) percent of the vote is required for passage.

Florida: Catholic Bishops of Florida Pleased with Florida Legislature’s Passage of Religious Freedom Act

Tallahassee, FL – Following approval by the Florida House of Representatives, the Florida Senate today approved HJR 1471, the Religious Freedom Act, proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to provide, consistent with the U.S. Constitution, that no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding or other support.

If approved by the voters in November 2012, the resolution will protect existing and future legislatively enacted programs vulnerable to court challenges that fund essential services provided by faith-based entities for the benefit of all Floridians. These include: educational scholarships for disabled and low income; healthcare, eldercare and indigent care; housing assistance for the homeless and disabled; food programs for the poor; faith-based prisons and disaster services.

“The legislature’s passage of the Religious Freedom Act is a critical first step toward safeguarding health, education and social service programs in which Floridians benefit through the participation of faith-based providers,” said Michael Sheedy, associate director for health. “The State must not favor particular religious groups over others but neither should our Constitution require discrimination against religious institutions.”

Just as we are called to serve our neighbor, Catholic institutions are committed to serve all residents of Florida regardless of religious belief through our education, health care and social service ministries. All Floridians, particularly the vulnerable and in need, deserve the opportunity to benefit from programs with a secular purpose provided by religious organizations.

The bishops express appreciation to resolution sponsors, Rep. Scott Plakon and Senator Thad Altman, and all legislators who joined with them to pass the Religious Freedom Act.

Florida: Pro-Life Measures Scheduled for Florida House Tomorrow

Urge Your State Representative to Vote ‘Yes’
Background: On Tuesday, April 26, the Florida House begins several days in session with a special order calendar that includes six pro-life bills. This is an unprecedented opportunity for the Florida House to act to protect the life of our most vulnerable, the unborn. These measures are also expected to be voted on by the full Senate very soon.

Issue: Pro-life bills up for consideration by the full House include:

Abortion Constitutional Amendment – CS/HJR 1179 (Baxley)
Prevents tax dollars from being used to provide elective abortion services and ensures that our state courts do not interpret the Florida Constitution to provide broader rights to an abortion than the federal Constitution.

Ultrasound Before Abortion – CS/HB 1127 (Porter)
Requires an ultrasound be performed and reviewed with a woman before she gives informed consent for an abortion. The woman may decline to view the ultrasound by signing an opt out form.

Parental Notice of Abortion – HB 1247 (Stargel)
Strengthens the parental notice mandate by revising procedures for judicial waiver by a minor seeking an abortion. Bill provisions require a notarized letter from a parent that waives the right to be notified, provide maturity standards for judges to consider and limit the court in which a minor may seek a judicial bypass to the circuit in which she resides.

Abortion Regulation – CS/CS/HB 1397 (Burgin)
Revises regulations governing the operation of abortion clinics

Health Insurance Exchange – CS/HB 97 (Gaetz, M.)
Restricts abortion coverage when a subsidy is used to purchase insurance in the state exchange established by federal health reform.

Choose Life License Plates – HB 501 (Baxley)
Provides that fees collected on the specialty license plate be distributed to Choose Life, Inc. for redistribution to crisis pregnancy centers assisting women considering an adoption plan for their child.

These bills, taken up on special order Tuesday, will likely be voted on either Tuesday or Wednesday – please take action immediately.

ACTION: Send an email message to your Florida Representative and urge him or her to vote ‘yes’ on these measures and protect the sanctity of life.

Click the link below to log in and send your message:

http://www.votervoice.net/link/target/fcc/Q6WzfcfW.aspx

Florida: Action Alert Urge Your State House Member to Vote No on HB 7089, Regarding Immigration

Background: After two hours of emotional testimony almost entirely against the bill, HB 7089 (Snyder) passed the House Economic Affairs Committee (11-7). During the meeting, Florida Catholic Conference staff indicated opposition to this bill that requires all private and public employers to use the federal E-Verify system to check the immigration status of new hires and allows arrest without a warrant by an officer who believes a person is unlawfully present in the United States. Issue: Just as our state’s economy is bolstered by foreign tourism, it is also dependent upon manual labor for agriculture, construction and the service industry. While we do not advocate for undocumented immigration into the United States, we urge the legislature to resist any policy that would demonize those who provide the labor for our economy and a living for their families. Laws that give the impression of profiling people will turn away tourism, hurt our economy, decrease public safety and discourage reporting of crime. All people are endowed with basic human rights and dignity and this includes the right to work to support their families.

ACTION: Contact your State House member to urge him or her to vote no on HB 7089 and press Congress for comprehensive federal immigration reform that will meet our economy’s need for workers, rooted in the reunification of families and respectful of the humanity of the immigrants among us. Click the link below to log in and send your message: http://www.votervoice.net/link/target/fcc/RGK3c3MQ.aspx

Florida: Weekly Update

HIGHLIGHTED ACTION THIS WEEK:

Life and Death
Ultrasound Before Abortion
During a meeting of the Senate Health Regulation Committee, Conference staff indicated support for SB 1744 (Storms), which passed (7-5). This bill requires an ultrasound be performed and reviewed with a woman prior to an abortion. The woman may decline to view the ultrasound by signing an opt out form. The bill is now in Budget. HB 1127 (Porter) remains in its final committee of reference, Health and Human Services.

Crisis Counseling
An amendment to the budget that would have moved a $2 million allocation for crisis pregnancy centers to family planning was defeated on the floor of both the Senate and House. Funding for the program has been in the budget since 2006 and maintains a network of 50 crisis pregnancy centers that provide counseling, information and resources to pregnant women.

Scheduled for Next Week
Parental Notice of Abortion – SB 1770 (Hays) and Abortion Regulation – SB 1748 (Flores) are scheduled for the Health Regulation Committee on Tuesday, April 12. Both bills were on the agenda to be heard this week; however, time ran out before they could be taken up by the committee.

Read more

Florida: Urge Senate to accept the House position that addressesAgency for Persons with Disabilities deficit

Urge Senate to accept the House position that addresses
Agency for Persons with Disabilities deficit
Background: Governor Rick Scott and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) this past week ordered a 15 percent rate reduction for providers who work with individuals with developmental disabilities. The emergency cuts were made in response to a $174 million deficit in the Medicaid program that funds services to about 30,000 developmentally disabled individuals, including those with autism, cerebral palsy and other disabilities. Services subject to this cut include companion, respite care and behavioral services. Families are already being told by personal caregivers that due to significant cuts in pay mandated by the emergency order, they can no longer provide services.

Issue: The House and the Senate are currently negotiating their budgets for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011. The proposed House budget already includes money to help resolve the deficit, including nearly $50 million in general revenue. This appropriation is not currently included in the Senate budget. The Senate Budget Committee on Friday, April 1 passed a bill that explicitly states that APD cannot spend more money than is included in its budget.

ACTION: Please urge the Senate to help those with developmental disabilities by accepting the House position that addresses the APD deficit.

Use the link below to send a message to Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Budget Committee Chair Senator JD Alexander and Vice Chair Senator Joe Negron, and your senator if he or she is a member of the Budget Committee. (Based on your zip code, the system will know if your senator is a member.)

Click the link below to log in and send your message:

http://www.votervoice.net/link/target/fcc/R27qW8iB.aspx

Urge Florida Senate to Save the Affordable Housing Trust Fund

Background: A portion of documentary stamp tax revenue on home sales is allocated to the State Housing Trust Fund and Local Government Housing Trust Fund. These trust funds benefit local affordable housing efforts that assist families with affordable home ownership or rental housing. The Florida Catholic Conference is a member of the Sadowski Coalition, which was formed to support affordable housing programs.

Issue: Section 1 of SB 7200 by the Budget Committee permanently redirects the state and local housing trust fund doc stamps to general revenue. The passage of this bill will bring an end to the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

The provision is not needed for the legislature to use the money in the state and local housing trust funds for general appropriations. The legislature can sweep the money in the fund to balance the budget without permanently redirecting the money to general revenue.

ACTION: Click the link below to send an email message that urges Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Senate Appropriations Chair JD Alexander and your own senator to remove Section 1 of SB 7200, the permanent redirection of doc stamps from the state and local housing trust funds into general revenue.
Please act fast, SB 7200 is scheduled to be heard by the Budget Committee at 9:00 am on Thursday, March 31 or Friday, April 1.

Click the link below to log in and send your message:
http://www.votervoice.net/link/target/fcc/N5ggFWFz.aspx

ACTION ALERT Urge Governor and State Legislators to Continue Funding for Programs Serving Homeless Persons and Families

ACTION ALERT

Urge Governor and State Legislators to Continue Funding for Programs Serving Homeless Persons and Families

Background: The plight of homelessness undermines human dignity, destroys families and hurts our communities. In 2010, the Department of Children and Families Office of Homelessness reported the daily number of homeless persons in Florida totaled 58,152, and the Florida Department of Education reported for the 2009-2010 school year the number of homeless children in Florida totaled 49,104.

Issue: The governor has proposed and the legislature is considering elimination of the Office of Homelessness at the Department of Children and Families and corresponding budgets.

Included in the proposed cuts, the following critical programs for the homeless are in jeopardy of losing funding:

Challenge Grant, which funds local services that are included in the local homeless continuum of care plan. Current budget for the program is $2,031,354, which funded all 28 continuums in 2010-11. In 2009-10, the program served 49,963 persons.

Homeless Housing Assistance Grant. This year $3,000,000 assisted 6 local projects to create 348 units of housing for the homeless.
Furthermore, the state’s $7 million dollar investment to address the issue of homelessness, draws down an additional $80 million in federal funding for Florida’s homeless population.

ACTION: Please click the link below to send a message to Governor Scott and House and Senate budget leaders that urges continued funding for programs serving the homeless in our state.

Click the link below to log in and send your message:

http://www.votervoice.net/link/target/fcc/yBE79yEq.aspx