Inside this issue
  Legislative Leaders Convene 2015 Session; Governor Delivers State of the State  
Pictured L to R: Governor Scott, President Gardiner, Speaker Crisafulli

On Tuesday morning, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, convened their chambers for the 2015 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature.

At the invitation of the Gardiner family, Father Roland Nadeau, M.S., pastor of Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Orlando, offered the opening prayer in the Senate chamber. Father Nadeau's prayer can be found on page one of the Senate Journal.

Governor Rick Scott delivered the first State of the State address of his second term in office. Governor Scott touted Florida "exceptionalism" and promoted his legislative priorities, including lowering taxes, holding down higher-education costs and boosting public-education spending.


  Catholic Days Participants Made a Difference at the Capitol  

On Tuesday, over 300 Catholics from across the state converged on our state's capital city for Catholic Days at the Capitol. During a legislative briefing, participants learned about four priorities to promote in meetings with legislators the next day.
  • 24-hour reflection period before an abortion is performed, SB 724 (Flores) / HB 633 (Sullivan)
  • Restoring the per-pupil scholarships for the VPK Program to 2007-2008 school-year funding levels
  • Expansion of KidCare for lawfully residing immigrant children, SB 294 (Garcia) / HB 829 (La Rosa)
  • Requiring a unanimous jury decision in order to recommend a sentence of death, SB 664 (Altman) / HB 139 (Rodriguez, J.)
For backgrounders with more information on these four issues, please click here.

On Wednesday, Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater was guest speaker at a luncheon attended by Catholic Days participants, the bishops of Florida and several of our state lawmakers. CFO Atwater sees his faith as integral to his own life, people of faith as integral to the political process, and faith itself as integral to our system of government. Our country's history and founding documents support the notion that our nation's design "is one that depends on religion and morality, not dismissal of them," he stated. Our faith is "part and parcel of our humanity," and as people of faith we have a duty "to come to the aid of those who seek peace as we do, and who simply seek to live their lives of faith." 

Click here to watch CFO Atwater's speech.

While attending Catholic Days activities in Tallahassee, the bishops of Florida also had the opportunity to meet with both Governor Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi to discuss issues of importance to the Church that affect the life and dignity of the residents of Florida.

Catholic Days at the Capitol diocesan group photos are available by clicking here.

Mark your calendar for Catholic Days at the Capitol, February 16-17, 2016!


  Holy Spirit Fills the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More  
  On the evening of March 4, the bishops of Florida con-celebrated the 40th annual Red Mass. In this annual call to the Holy Spirit, government leaders join the faithful to pray for the Lord's guidance and inspiration in their work to serve the residents of Florida.

Auxiliary Bishop Peter Baldacchino of Miami served as homilist and called on congregates, including Governor Scott, CFO Atwater, elected and appointed officials, attorneys and judges, to follow the lead of Jesus himself; "The Son of God did not come to be served, but to serve."  So, too, are we called to serve. All Christians are called to be charitable toward their fellow man no matter their particular place in life. Those in political life are especially called to do so, even though at times it may not be easy.

Click here to read Bishop Baldacchino's homily.

Representatives MaryLynn Magar, District 82, Hobe Sound and Carlos Trujillo, District 105, Doral participated in the Mass as lectors.


  Lawfully-Residing Immigrant Children Closer to Receiving Immediate Access to KidCare Insurance  
  Under current law, immigrant children must wait five years before becoming eligible for Florida KidCare, our state's health insurance program. SB 294 (Garcia) establishes immediate eligibility in the KidCare program for lawfully-residing immigrant children from low-income families.
After passing its first committee of reference (8-0), the bill moved on to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, where it again passed unanimously (7-0), on March 4. FCCB supports this proposed legislation that provides improved access to health care for children.
As one of four Catholic Days at the Capitol (CDAC) issues, CDAC participants were able to observe the committee process on this bill while visiting the capitol Wednesday. Pilgrims can feel assured of their positive influence on this FCCB priority. 
SB 294 now moves to Appropriations. HB 829 (La Rosa) is an identical bill and is now in the Health Innovation Subcommittee, its first committee of reference.


  Juvenile Civil Citations Offer Second Chance and Opportunity for Police Discretion  
  Research continues to demonstrate that impulse control and risk evaluation are not yet fully developed during the teenage years. Our juvenile justice system, therefore, has a responsibility to treat juveniles according to their cognitive abilities while making the most of our youths' capacity to reform and transform their lives and future behavior.
As amended and passed by its first committee of reference, HB 99 (Clarke-Reed) encourages police officers to issue civil citations to minors who commit non-serious misdemeanors and is supported by the FCCB. This citation system ensures that minors are held accountable for their actions but also provides them a learning opportunity rather than incarceration. Civil citations spare the young offender a criminal record, save the state the cost of incarceration, and give young people a second chance.
SB 378 (Garcia), the identical bill in the Senate, is scheduled to be heard by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Tuesday, March 10. 

For more information on the FCCB's criminal justice priorities, click here.


  Unanimous Jury Requirement for Sentence of Death Headed to Committee  
  Catholic Days priority SB 664 (Altman) is scheduled to be heard in the Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday, March 10. This bill helps ensure that juries give more thoughtful deliberation to their recommendation of the death penalty during the sentencing phase of capital cases. 
Current law requires a unanimous jury only during the determination of guilt phase and a simple majority (7-5) during the sentencing portion of death penalty cases. 

Be on the lookout for an action alert asking you to urge the members of the Criminal Justice Committee to vote 'yes' on SB 664.

A similar bill in the house, HB 139 (Rodríguez, J.) waits to be heard by its first committee of reference, the Criminal Justice Subcommittee.


March 6, 2015

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E-Update: Week 1

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 2015 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature began Tuesday, March 3 and is scheduled to conclude Friday, May 1.
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