Inside this issue
  Final Session Summary  
  The 2014 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature concluded Friday, May 2. During the 60-day Session, 1812 bills were filed, of which 264 passed both House and Senate chambers. One of the last acts by the legislature was to approve a $77.1 billion state budget for fiscal year 2014-2015. The budget will be presented to Governor Rick Scott who has line item veto authority.

The following proposals were actively engaged by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB) in the weeks leading up to and throughout the Session. For the final status of additional bills closely followed by the FCCB, see our Legislative Bill Report.


  Bills that Passed the Legislature  
  The FCCB is happy to report that several measures supported by the bishops of Florida were passed this Session. Bills passed by the legislature will be presented to Governor Scott for final action. From the date the governor receives a bill, he has 15 days to either sign, veto, or let the bill become law without his signature.

Click the links below to view how your state lawmakers voted on final passage of these priority bills. Restrictions on Abortion After Viability - HB 1047 (Adkins) / SB 918 (Flores)
This legislation advances the protection of the unborn by prohibiting elective abortions when a physician, using his/her medical judgment, determines the child is viable outside the womb. It also removes "psychological conditions" of the mother from the list of medical exceptions for allowing abortions in the third trimester and applies the remaining exceptions (life and irreversible physical impairment of the mother) to abortions performed after viability.

Unborn Victims of Violence - HB 59 (Ahern) / SB 162 (Stargel)
Catholic Days at the Capitol Issue
This legislation provides 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. By recognizing crimes against the unborn at any stage of gestation, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act ensures justice for unborn children who are injured or killed as a result of violence towards them or their mother and provides added protections for pregnant women.

Human Trafficking/Safe Houses - HB 7141 (Healthy Families) / SB 1724 (Children, Families, and Elder Affairs)
Requires that sexually exploited children be referred to specially trained child protective investigators for assessment. The measure also requires that the Department of Children and Families certify safe houses and provide criteria for the placement of children who are trafficking victims in safe houses.
Human Trafficking/Employment of Minors/Victim Assistance - HB 989 (Trujillo) / SB 768 (Braynon)
Contains several provisions, including: prohibits the employment of minors in adult theaters; provides for expunction of criminal history records of certain charges against victims of human trafficking; allows an exemption from public records for the criminal history of human trafficking victims; and provides for victim relocation and compensation.

Service to Homeless Persons - HB 979 (Peters) / SB 1090 (Latvala)
Requires designated lead agencies receiving funding from the Department of Children and Families to serve Florida's homeless population to receive training and technical assistance from certain nonprofit entities; modifies annual "Challenge Grants" administered by the State Office on Homelessness of up to $500,000 per lead agency based on population and degrees of homelessness in the service area.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth - SB 260 (Latvala) / HB 203 (Raulerson) 
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.

Juvenile Sentencing - HB 7035 (Criminal Justice Subcommittee) / SB 384 (Bradley)
Revises sentencing guidelines and provides for sentence reviews, based on the severity and nature of the crime, for juveniles who were under the age of eighteen at the time of their offense. Re-offenders who have previously been convicted of violent 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.

Though this legislation falls short of providing meaningful and periodic sentence reviews for all juvenile offenders, as sought by the FCCB, the final bill alters the current practice of sentencing juveniles to life without the possibility of parole and is an improvement over a proposal that nearly passed in 2013.

In-State Tuition for Children of Immigrants - HB 851 (Nuñez) / SB 1400 (Latvala)
Allows children of undocumented immigrants who meet certain residency and graduation requirements to qualify for in-state tuition at Florida public colleges and universities. The legislation also expands tuition waiver benefits for recipients of a Purple Heart or other combat decorations. In addition, it restricts automatic increases in tuition and fees for state universities.

Expansion of Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program - SB 850 (Legg) / HB 7167 (Education Appropriations Subcommittee)
Provisions to expand tax credit scholarships include removing the prior-public attendance requirement for eligibility in the FTC Scholarship Program for children in grades 6-12 who are otherwise qualified for the program. There is no such requirement in current law for children in kindergarten to 5th grade. The bill also raises the annual income limit for eligibility in this program to assist low-income families, allowing partial scholarships at certain salary levels. The individual scholarship amount will also rise. Children in foster care will be able to apply year round and keep their scholarships once adopted.

The legislation allows private schools to maintain autonomy over the curriculum and standards used in their classrooms. As exists in current statute, scholarship schools may continue to administer national norm-referenced assessments which meet validity and reliability specifications set by the Florida Department of Education.

The bill also creates personal learning accounts for some students with disabilities in kindergarten through high school.

Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Education Program Funding
Catholic Days at the Capitol Issue
The final budget includes a $54 per child increase for the Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Education Program, increasing school-year scholarships from the current $2,383 per child to $2,437. The final increase is a compromise between the Senate, which offered no increase, and the House's request for a $108 per child increase.


  Bills that Died During the Session  
  Unanimous Jury Recommendation for a Death Sentence - SB 334 (Altman) / HB 467 (Rodriguez, J.)
Catholic Days at the Capitol Issue
Required that an advisory sentence of death be made by a unanimous recommendation of the jury. Both bills were referred to committees but failed to advance this session. Despite the lack of movement, a great deal of progress was made educating lawmakers about the need for this legislation that will likely be filed again next year.

KidCare Expansion - HB 7 (Diaz, J.) / SB 282 (Garcia)
Catholic Days at the Capitol Issue
Removed the five-year waiting period to apply for the Florida KidCare Program for approximately 26,000 lawfully residing immigrant children, while still maintaining the exclusion of eligibility for undocumented immigrants of any age. With pressing by advocates, this year's fiscal note for the measure was more accurate at $10 million, over last Session's estimated cost of $500 million. Though the proposal did not reach final passage, both House and Senate versions received favorable votes in their first committees of reference.

Wage Theft - SB 926 (Simpson) / HB 957 (Combee)
This bill would have preempted regulation to the state for local governments that have not established mechanisms to resolve disputes over wage theft. The bill's final version contained provisions burdensome to employees seeking recovery of lost or stolen wages. The proposal would have provided insufficient incentive for employers to pay disputed wages in a timely manner, disallowed punitive damages, and prohibited payment of attorneys' fees to the prevailing side.

Cemeteries - HB 423 (Hudson) / SB 512 (Flores)
Allowed an expansion of the current 5-acre cap on new religious institution cemeteries to accommodate the needs of today's faith communities. Provisions of the bill provided for certain consumer protections, while ensuring reasonable freedom of religion for church ministries that wish to serve their members through the corporal work of mercy of burying the dead. After passage of the Senate bill by its first committee of reference, the measure died when the House bill failed in the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee (5-8).


  FLCAN Advocacy Efforts Met with Success  
  During the Legislative Session, several action alerts were sent by the Florida Catholic Advocacy Network (FLCAN) covering four areas of concern:
  • Restrictions on Abortion after Viability
  • Unborn Victims of Violence
  • In-State Tuition for Children of Immigrants
  • Expansion of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program
A tremendous response to our calls to action resulted in over 6,700 messages to lawmakers - and passage of all four issues!

The FCCB is grateful for the efforts of the members of the advocacy network and Catholic community that helped to push these proposals along and ultimately achieve final passage.

As passed legislation goes to Governor Scott, if it becomes necessary for him to receive encouragement from our network to sign any FCCB supported bills, you will hear from us.


May 7, 2014

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E-Update: Final Session Summary

The 2014 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature began Tuesday, March 4 and concluded Friday, May 2.

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


Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9

For the final status of bills closely monitored by the FCCB, see our legislative bill report.
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