Inside this issue
  Bishop Peter Baldacchino Ordained as Auxiliary Bishop of Miami  
  During solemn vespers held Sunday evening, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski reflected on the notion that the title "Bishop" is one of service rather than honor. On Wednesday, March 19 - the feast of St. Joseph - Bishop Peter Baldacchino entered that life of service at his Mass of ordination to the episcopacy celebrated at St. Mary Cathedral in Miami.

The newly-ordained Auxiliary Bishop, FCCB's new board member, was born in the island nation of Malta. His previous service, as a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark in New Jersey, was that of a missionary to Turks and Caicos, where he has worked for the past fifteen years.

Bishop Baldacchino has chosen for his motto "Ubi Dominus ibidem laetitia," "Where God is, there is joy."

It is with much joy that we welcome Bishop Baldacchino. We pray that God will assist and protect him as he works with Archbishop Wenski to lead the faithful of Miami.


  Florida Remembers Governor Reuben Askew  
  On Thursday, March 12, 2014, 85-year-old former governor Reuben O'Donovan Askew entered into eternal life.

Askew, who grew up in Pensacola, was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. He served the state of Florida in both the House of Representatives and Senate, and completed his civil service as governor after defeating Governor Claude Kirk in 1970.

With the dignity offered by a military honor guard, Askew's body was carried into the Florida Historic Capitol on March 18, 2014, where his body lay in state. Visitors both renowned and humble came to offer their final respects and prayers.

Known as a man of integrity, a progressive leader, and a southern gentleman, Askew's policies will continue to influence the residents of Florida for years to come.



  Human Trafficking Addressed This Week by Both the Vatican and Florida House  
  During the same week that representatives of the Catholic, Anglican and Muslim worlds gathered at the Vatican for the launch of a Global Freedom Network aimed at eradicating human trafficking, several bills seeking assistance for victims passed committee stops in the Florida House.

HB 1017 (Spano) prohibits employment of minors in adult theaters and requires theaters to verify ages of employees or independent contractors and maintain specified documentation.
The bill was passed by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee (12-0) and is referred next to Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. SB 1440 (Flores) has yet to be heard in committee.

HB 1021 (Spano), which passed the Criminal Justice Subcommittee (12-0) on Tuesday, provides an exemption from public records requirements regarding criminal history of human trafficking victims. The bill's next reference is the Government Operations Subcommittee. SB 1426 (Flores) waits to be heard by its committee references.

HB 989 (Trujillo) unanimously passed the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday. FCCB staff indicated support for the bill, which amends the definition of "sexual abuse of a child" to include human trafficking. It also allows for victims of human trafficking to file compensation claims and seek financial relocation assistance. The bill strengthens the Safe Harbor Act signed into law by Governor Rick Scott in 2012, which allows child prostitution to be considered abuse of the child rather than a crime committed by the child. The measure goes next to Judiciary. SB 768 (Braynon) is on the agenda to be heard next Monday by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.


  In-State Tuition for Immigrant Children Narrowly Passes Senate Committee; Receives Final Passage in House  
  SB 1400 (Latvala) narrowly passed the Senate Education Committee (5-4) on Tuesday. The bill, supported by the FCCB, provides that a U.S. citizen may not be denied classification as a resident for tuition purposes at Florida colleges and universities based solely upon the immigration status of his or her parents. Additionally, the measure allows undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition if they have attended a high school in Florida for at least three years and apply for college within two years of graduation. Several students who were brought to the U.S. by their parents at a young age and attended school in Florida for nearly their entire lives testified at the committee meeting about the difficulties they have experienced paying non-resident tuition rates for their post-secondary education.

Having passed all committees of reference, CS/HB 851 (Nuñez) was taken up by the full House. An amendment to the bill increased the length of time, from three to four years, that undocumented students would be required to attend high school in Florida before they qualify for in-state tuition. The amended bill was passed by the House (81-33) Thursday evening.


  School Choice Bill Moves in House but is Withdrawn in Senate  
  HB 7099 (Finance & Tax), which provides for additional students from low-income families to take advantage of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, passed the Choice and Innovation Subcommittee (9-4). FCCB Associate Director for Education, James Herzog, indicated support for the bill as dozens of students crammed the committee room to express their desire for increased opportunities for Florida students. Along with some of those students, Catholic school principals, Dr. Kathleen Kiley of Orlando and Ms. Mary Margaret Martin of Jacksonville, offered testimony in support of the bill.

The companion bill, SB 1620 (Galvano), was withdrawn from futher consideration late Thursday afternoon before receiving any committee hearings in the senate. Unfortunately, this is an indication that the proposal is likely dead for the 2014 session.


  Measure Seeks to Enable Parents of Students with Disabilities to Customize Their Child's Education  
  A proposal creating "personalized accounts for learning," similar to education savings accounts, for some students with disabilities was heard in both House and Senate committees this week. Parents of qualified students would be allowed to use up to 90 percent of the state's core per-pupil funding to cover expenses like private school tuition, certain kinds of therapy, or instructional materials tailored to their child's needs.

SB 1512 (Stargel) passed Senate Education (7-2) and is referred next to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. Companion HB 5103 (Choice & Innovation) was passed by the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee (7-4) and is now in Appropriations. These bills are being monitored by the FCCB.


March 21, 2014

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E-Update: Week 3

Each Friday during the 60-day session, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB) provides a summary of activity on priority bills and other items of interest at the Capitol.

For the current status of bills closely monitored by the FCCB, see our legislative bill report, which is updated on a daily basis.

The 2014 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature began Tuesday, March 4 and is scheduled to conclude Friday, May 2.

Past Weekly E-Updates:
Week 1
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