Inside this issue
  House Passes Protections for Unborn Children Who Have Reached Viability  
  HB 1047 (Adkins) was passed by the full House (70-45) on Friday. During questions and debate by House members, Representative Janet Adkins explained the merits of her bill. Both the U.S. and Florida Supreme Courts have ruled that restrictions on abortion are constitutional when the child has achieved viability, the stage of development when the child is capable of surviving outside of the mother's womb.

HB 1047 requires that a physician complete and document methods used to determine the viability of an unborn child if a woman is seeking an abortion. If the physician determines that the unborn baby has reached viability, the abortion is prohibited with exceptions for the life and physical health of the mother.

The Senate companion, SB 918 (Flores), was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee (6-3) on Tuesday and is now in rules. FCCB staff indicated support for the bill during the meeting and in a letter to the members of the committee.
Several hundred members of the Florida Catholic Advocacy Network (FLCAN) responded to the FCCB's request to contact lawmakers and urge a 'yes' vote on this measure - thank you for taking action!


  Unborn Victims of Violence One Step Closer to Justice  
  HB 59 (Ahern) and SB 162 (Stargel) establish the Florida Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which modifies current Florida law and states that a person who engages in criminal conduct that causes the death of, or injury to, an unborn child commits a criminal offense separate from the offense against the mother.

Despite the fact that the measure is law in 37 other states and at the federal level, current Florida law is limited in that it only holds criminal defendants liable for the death of an "unborn quick child" as a result of vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter, or homicide crimes. An "unborn quick child" is defined as a fetus that is capable of life outside the womb. 

By recognizing crimes against the unborn at any stage of gestation, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act provides added protections for pregnant women and unborn children from assault and homicide offenses.

On Friday, HB 59 was passed by the full House (74-42). SB 162 was taken-up on the floor of the Senate on second reading and will be debated and up for final passage after Holy Week.
We thank the members of the Florida Catholic Advocacy Network (FLCAN) who answered the FCCB's call to action and asked their lawmakers to ensure justice for unborn victims of violence!


  Tuition for Immigrant Residents Passes Another Hurdle in Senate  
  SB 1400 (Latvala) was passed by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education (8-5) on Wednesday. The bill seeks to assist various groups by extending in-state tuition at public postsecondary education institutions. These include:
  • Citizen children of immigrants who cannot provide the necessary documentation for their parents;
  • Undocumented immigrant children who attend a Florida secondary school for 3 consecutive years before graduating; and
  • Recipients of a Purple Heart or other combat decorations (full tuition waived).
In order to receive in-state tuition, the bill was amended to require undocumented students to sign affidavits saying that they have applied for, or would apply for, legalization when eligible.

Additionally, this bill eliminates automatic increases in tuition for every state university except the University of Florida and Florida State University, which would be allowed to request six percent increases from the state Board of Governors instead of the current 15 percent hike.
The response to our action alert by the members of the Florida Catholic Advocacy Network (FLCAN) is greatly appreciated! Thank you for urging your lawmaker on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education to vote 'yes' on SB 1400.

SB 1400 has one more committee stop, Senate Appropriations, before reaching the chamber. The House version of the bill, HB 851 (Nuñez), was passed on the floor of the House (81-33) earlier this session.


  Senate Addresses Juvenile Sentencing  
  On Friday, the Senate took up HB 7035 (Criminal Justice Subcommittee) in place of SB 384 (Bradley). The bill seeks to reconcile two U.S. Supreme Court rulings with Florida juvenile sentencing guidelines. 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. Re-offenders who have previously committed serious crimes are excluded from a sentence review. In homicide cases, the bill also requires judges to consider certain factors before determining whether or not a life sentence is appropriate.

In an attempt at compromise, the Senate passed an amendment to HB 7035 to address differences in the two chambers' bills. The amended bill is on third reading and awaits a vote in the Senate.

Senator Flores who filed the amendment indicated that it is an attempt to pursue justice for victims while simultaneously recognizing the value and opportunities for rehabilitation. The FCCB advocates for meaningful and periodic review for all juvenile offenders.


  House Chamber Amends and Passes School Choice Bill  
  HB 7167 (Education Appropriations Subcommittee) was passed by the House (73-43) Friday. Representative Erik Fresen introduced the bill, which seeks to expand the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC) Program to allow additional students to be served and also creates "Personalized Accounts for Learning" for some students with disabilities.

An amendment to the bill by the House removed a provision that would have increased funding for the FTC program by $30 million a year over the next five years. However, the bill would still expand eligibility by raising the annual income limit to qualify for participation in this program for low-income families. It would also increase the individual scholarship amount.

There is no companion for this bill in the Senate, which continues to remain resistant to increased access to the FTC Program unless at least some changes in accountability standards are included in the proposal.


April 11, 2014

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E-Update: Week 6

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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