Inside this issue
  First Hurdle Cleared for 24-Hour Reflection Before an Abortion  
  HB 633 (Sullivan), a Catholic Days at the Capitol priority issue, provides a woman the opportunity to reflect for at least 24 hours after receiving information about her baby's gestational age and the risks of abortion before terminating her pregnancy. Representative Sullivan presented the bill to its first committee, the Health Quality Subcommittee, on Thursday, where it passed 9-4. 

FCCB staff indicated support for the bill, and there was testimony before the committee from others, including post-abortive women and a woman who counsels those in crisis pregnancies.  A letter from Michael Sheedy, executive director, to committee chair, Rep. Cary Pigman, urged support for the measure. HB 633 empowers a woman to make a better informed decision by providing her time to confer with family and consult her faith before aborting her child. Representatives from Planned Parenthood, NOW and the ACLU spoke against the bill citing it as an inconvenience for women. 

HB 633 goes next to the Judiciary Committee. Its Senate companion, SB 724, waits to be heard by its first committee of reference, Health Policy.


  Committee Hearing Rescheduled for Unanimous Jury Requirement - Alert Extended  
  SB 664 (Altman), which requires that an advisory sentence of death be agreed on by all twelve jurors who determined a defendant's guilt, was scheduled to be heard in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday. However, time did not permit consideration of the bill, so it has been rescheduled for Monday, March 16 at 2:00 p.m. A letter indicating FCCB support for SB 664, a Catholic Days at the Capitol priority, can be read here.

If your senator is a member of the Criminal Justice Committee, please click here to urge a 'yes' vote on SB 664. Members of the Criminal Justice Committee include: Senators Greg Evers, chair; Audrey Gibson, vice chair; Rob Bradley; Jeff Brandes; and Jeff Clemens.

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

U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Florida's Death Penalty Sentencing
Florida's death sentencing protocol drew the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) which, on Monday, agreed to review the Florida death penalty case of Timothy Hurst in the term that begins in October. SCOTUS will consider whether Florida's sentencing scheme violates its finding in the 2002 case Ring v. Arizona, which determined that a jury, not a judge, must find that a defendant meets the legal qualifications for receiving the death penalty. Nearly every state changed its law to require a unanimous jury finding for death as a result of this ruling.

Florida, however, allows someone to be put to death based on the recommendation of a simple majority (7-5) of jurors. In addition, Florida is the only death penalty state where jury decisions on aggravating factors do not have to be unanimous and are not recorded. In the 2005 case State v. Steele, the Florida Supreme Court advised the legislature to revisit its statute and require some unanimity in jury recommendations; however, Florida lawmakers have failed to act.


  House Passes Adoption Bill with Controversy  
  On Wednesday, the House chamber passed (68-50) a bill that creates an incentive program for employees of state agencies who adopt a child from the child welfare system. HB 7013 (Brodeur) provides adoptive parents an additional benefit of either $5000 or $10000, depending on whether the adopted child has special needs.

An amendment to the bill on Tuesday struck current language in Florida statute that bans adoption by homosexual persons. In 2010, Florida's Third District Court of Appeal ruled that the ban was unconstitutional. Until that time, Florida was the only state to maintain such a ban. The State of Florida did not appeal the court's decision, and adoption by same-sex couples has become the practice throughout our state. If the ban is retained in statute, which the Conference has supported, other courts in Florida could uphold it. FCCB is also working to pursue conscience protections so that religious child placement agencies that morally object to placing children with same-sex couples are not excluded from state licensure, as has occurred in other states.

HB 7013 will be sent to the Senate for approval where its companion bill, SB 320 (Gaetz, D.), waits on second reading. The Senate bill does not strike from Florida statute the language banning adoption by homosexual persons, but efforts to align it with the House bill are expected. 


  Affordable Housing Funds Held Harmless in House; Remain in Jeopardy in Senate  
  Proposals addressing the implementation of the Water and Land Conservation Constitutional Amendment (Amendment 1) approved by voters in November 2014 advanced in both chambers this week. Both proposals would revise distributions of revenue generated annually through documentary stamps on real-estate transactions. The Senate approach would permanently sweep approximately $100 million from the affordable housing trust fund. The House version implements Amendment 1 while protecting the existing distributions to housing trust funds.

The FCCB proposes that Amendment 1 can be addressed without reducing funding for affordable housing trusts, which assist people with disabilities, veterans and working families in need of housing.

SB 586 (Dean) was passed unanimously by the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and is scheduled to be heard in Senate Appropriations on March 18 at 1:30 pm.

HB 1291 (Boyd) was passed unanimously by the Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee and will be heard next by House Appropriations.


  Bills Protecting the Vulnerable from Predatory Guardians Viewed Favorably  
  This week, both SB 318 (Diaz de la Portilla) and SB 1226 (Detert) were unanimously passed by their first committees of reference. Earlier, HB 5 (Passidomo) received overwhelming support from two assigned committees.

The call for guardianship reform is brought forth in response to the public outcry from victims and their families who have been abused, neglected, and denied basic rights. Abusive guardians have exploited their wards financially, relocated them from their homes and communities into institutions and have even prevented them from practicing their religion. These bills are aimed at safeguarding the elderly and other vulnerable populations by requiring duly noticed hearings, clarifying the appeals process, increasing transparency, requiring enforcement of existing reporting requirements, increasing involvement of family members and defining the role of the court-appointed guardian vs. the individual's surrogate regarding advance directives and related health matters.

SB 366 (Stargel) and HB 1225 (Ahern) also address guardianship proceedings. HB 1225 is scheduled to be heard by its first committee of reference, Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee, March 17 at 9:00 a.m.

FCCB continues to monitor all of the guardianship reform bills.


March 13, 2015

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E-Update: Week 2

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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