Inside this issue
  Senate and House Committees Advance Florida's Protection of the Unborn  
  SB 918 (Flores), which prohibits abortion of a viable fetus, passed the Health Policy committee this week (6-3). FCCB associate Ingrid Delgado testified in front of the committee in support of the bill.

Babies are considered viable when they are able to survive outside the mother's womb. Due to medical advances, the gestational time at which an unborn baby achieves viability is becoming earlier. Children are surviving outside of the womb prior to reaching 24 weeks or the third trimester, the point at which abortion in Florida is currently banned. Delgado explained before the committee, "The Florida Department of Health reported 375 live births in 2012 weighing under 500 grams (approx. 1.1 pounds)." At 24 weeks gestation, the typical fetal weight is 600 grams, indicating that those 375 live births likely occurred before the third trimester.

HB 1047 (Adkins) passed the House Judiciary Committee on Friday (8-4).

Letters from Michael B. Sheedy, FCCB executive director, to members of both the Senate Heath Policy and House Judiciary Committees outlined the conference's support for the measure. Sheedy explains that both the United States and Florida Supreme Courts have ruled that states are allowed to regulate elective abortions once the child has achieved viability.

SB 918 (Flores) will be heard and voted on next by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, April 8 at 9:00 a.m. If your senator is a member of this committee (see committee list), please click here to send a message to your lawmaker urging him or her to vote 'yes'.


  House Passes Juvenile Sentencing Review  
  HB 7035 (Criminal Justice Subcommittee), which seeks to reconcile two U.S. Supreme Court rulings with Florida juvenile sentencing guidelines, was passed by the full House (117-0) this week. The High Court's decisions in Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama found that sentencing laws should take into account that impulse control and risk evaluation are not yet fully developed in juveniles.

Based on the severity of the crime, the measure provides for review of sentences for juveniles under the age of eighteen at the time of their offense. In homicide cases, the bill also requires judges to consider certain factors before determining whether or not a life sentence is appropriate.
Rep. Jamie Grant introduced the bill on the House floor where it was amended before passage to exclude review of sentences for re-offenders who have previously committed serious crimes.
A similar bill in the Senate, SB 384 (Bradley), has passed all committees of reference and waits to be heard by the full chamber.

FCCB seeks meaningful and periodic review for all juvenile offenders.


  Tuition for Immigrant Residents Moves in Senate  
  SB 1400 (Latvala) seeks to assist children of undocumented immigrants who meet certain graduation, enrollment, and residency requirements by allowing them to qualify for in-state tuition. At Florida public colleges and universities, non-resident tuition fees are generally over three times higher than the fees for residents. The bill also expands tuition waiver benefits for recipients of a Purple Heart or other combat decorations and eliminates automatic increases in tuition and fees based on the rate of inflation.

This week, SB 1400 passed the Judiciary Committee (7-2) and is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education on Wednesday, April 9.

A similar bill in the House, HB 851 (Nunez), has already moved through all its committees and was amended and passed on the floor of the Hosue last week (81-33).


  Lawmakers Agree to Help Victims of Human Trafficking  
  Several measures seeking to protect and assist victims of human trafficking unanimously passed committees of reference in both the House and Senate. Committees taking action this week on the following bills are identified on our Legislative Bill Report under the heading Social Concerns, then Human Trafficking:
  • SB 1440 (Flores) and HB 1017 (Spano) prohibit employment of minors in adult theaters and require theaters to verify ages of employees or independent contractors and maintain specified documentation.
  • SB 1436 (Flores) and HB 1019 (Spano) exempts the location of safe houses from public records requirements.
  • SB 1426 (Flores) and HB 1021 (Spano) provide an exemption from public records requirements information regarding the criminal history of human trafficking victims.
In a December 12, 2013, address to new ambassadors to the Holy See, Pope Francis spoke about the exploitation of humans for personal gain as a social scourge of our time. The Pontiff stated, "Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must unite our efforts to free the victims and stop this increasingly aggressive crime which threatens not only individuals but the basic values of society and of international security and justice, to say nothing of the economy, and the fabric of the family and our coexistence."


  Access to Care for Homeless Minors Passes Senate  
  SB 260 (Latvala) was passed unanimously (39-0) by the Senate on Thursday. The measure, supported by the FCCB, allows homeless youth who are at least 16 years old and not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian to make medical decisions for themselves and any children they may have. Provisions of the bill do not affect the requirements of the Parental Notification of Abortion Act.

The House companion, HB 203 (Raulerson), has passed all committees of reference and is on the House calendar on second reading.


  Senate Panel Retools Learning Accounts for Students with Profound Disabilities  
  The Senate Subcommittee on Education Appropriations made significant changes to SB 1512 (Stargel) regarding the establishment of Florida Personalized Accounts for Learning. The revised bill provides additional resources to augment existing education services for children with profound special needs.

The bill no longer requires the Individual Education Plan (IEP) process of the public school districts to serve as the basis for determining services and funding for this new type of accounts. Instead, the personalized accounts would fall under the purview of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. Furthermore, the Senate is proposing $18.4 million in separate funding to establish the program.

The new program would serve students with disabilities such as cerebal palsy and spina bifida. These students may currently be served in public or nonpublic schools as well as home education. Their parents would be able to pay for additional therapies such as speech language pathology, instructional materials and private school tuition for their children, or to cover additional services offered by school districts. James Herzog, FCCB associate director for education, indicated support for the measure. It passed the subcommittee 11-1 with significant bipartisan support.


April 04, 2014

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E-Update: Week 5

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.

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