Inside this issue
  Blessings at Easter  
As we near the end of the Lenten Season, approach the Triduum, and anticipate the glory of Easter, the bishops of Florida and the staff of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops pray that your Easter is joyful and truly blessed with the grace and love of Our Lord and Savior.


  Legislative Session on Break  
  With lawmakers breaking for Holy Week and Passover holidays, the Florida legislature has no meetings on the calendar this week. Members of the senate and house will return to the Capitol on April 21 for the remainder of the 2014 legislative session. Other items of concern this week include:  


  Governor Scott Urged to Spare the Life of Robert Hendrix  
  Florida's 5th execution of 2014 has been scheduled for Wednesday, April 23. Robert Hendrix was found guilty of the 1990 murders of Elmer Scott, Jr. and Michelle Scott of Lake County. The Florida Catholic Conference asks Governor Scott to commute the sentence of Mr. Hendrix to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Conference recognizes the criminal behavior for which Mr. Hendrix has been found guilty; however, the taking of his life is not necessary. A sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole is a severe and just punishment, which protects society and allows for the prospect of reconciliation and forgiveness.
The Catholic Church teaches that the use of the death penalty is only acceptable if there is no other means available to protect society.

"Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2267)

Pope Francis reminds us of the capacity of people to repent and the need to rely on God's merciful judgment rather than on the human desire for revenge. The Holy Father stated in his 2014 World Day of Peace message, "...human beings can experience conversion; they must never despair of being able to change their lives. I wish this to be a message of hope and confidence for all, even for those who have committed brutal crimes, for God does not wish the death of the sinner, but that he converts and lives" (cf. Ezekiel 18:23).

Please pray for all involved in the culture of death. Click here for a news release from the Florida Catholic Conference, including a list of local prayer vigils.


  Wednesday, April 16 is National Health Care Decisions Day  
  Designating a health care surrogate and providing guidance for end of life decisions is the best way to ensure that morally acceptable procedures are followed if you become incapacitated or are unable to express your own wishes in the event of a medical emergency.
In an effort to assist the lay faithful with end of life decisions, the Florida Catholic Conference provides the Catholic Declaration on Life and Death in both English and Spanish through its website. It is available for free download and printing at any time.
If you have not already done so, please consider making use of this advance directive, which combines a designation of health care surrogate and living will into one document. You can also find in English and Spanish the document Understanding the Catholic Declaration on Life and Death, which addresses common concerns and questions.


  Update on the 2014 Catholic Days at the Capitol Issues  
  The following is a brief update on the current status of the four issues advocated during Catholic Days at the Capitol:
  • Unborn Victims of Violence - SB 162 (Stargel) / HB 59 (Ahern): On Friday, April 11, HB 59 was passed by the full House (74-42). The measure is now awaiting its turn in the Senate. SB 162 is on third reading in the Senate chamber and is expected to be debated and up for final passage next week. If you have not already contacted your Florida state senator to urge a 'yes' vote on SB 162, please do so now.
  • Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) Education Program: Increased funding for this program is being considered in the budgetary committee process. A letter sent April 4 from James Herzog, Associate Director of Education, to Senator Bill Galvano, Chair, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, formally requested a funding increase of at least $100 per student.
  • KidCare Expansion for Legal Immigrant Children - SB 282 (Garcia) / HB 7 (Diaz, J): After passing first committees of reference early in the session, both the senate and house bills have stalled.
  • Unanimous Jury Recommendation for a Death Sentence - SB 334 (Altman) / HB 467 (Rodriguez, J): Both bills have been referred to committees but have seen no movement, indicating that these bills will not advance this session. Despite the failure of these bills to move, a great deal of progress was made educating lawmakers about the need for this legislation.
Please continue to review our weekly legislative e-updates for any additional action on these proposals.


  Wage Theft Measure Harmful to Employees Seeking Compensation  
  An amendment to SB 926 (Simpson) has prompted FCCB opposition to the bill. The Rules Committee struck two options available for counties to establish a framework to address wage theft. The current version of the bill contains provisions that would be burdensome to the aggrieved employee, especially lower wage earners, by providing insufficient incentive for employers to pay disputed wages in a timely manner, disallowing punitive damages, prohibiting payment of attorneys' fees to the prevailing side, and requiring the employee to notify the employer of the intent to bring an action against them.

The bill is on the Senate Special Order Calendar for Wednesday, April 23. The FCCB urges an amendment on the floor that would return the bill to a previous version that did not establish such an onerous process for employees seeking lost wages.

The house companion, HB 957 (Combee), has been passed by its first committee of reference and is now in the Local and Federal Affairs Committee.


April 16, 2014

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E-Update: Week 7

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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