Inside this issue
  Second Hurdle Cleared in House for Reflection Period Before Abortion  
  HB 633 (Sullivan), which 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, was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, March 19. Attempts were made to amend the bill to allow exceptions to the 24-hour reflection period in cases of rape or incest, or when the health of the mother is at risk. FCCB opposed the amendments, which failed to be adopted. During high stress situations, a woman has even greater need for a period of reflection and additional time to consult family and faith before making the irreversible decision to abort her child. After several testimonies and debate, the bill passed along party lines (12-6). HB 633 will be heard next by the House Health & Human Services Committee.

Senate companion, SB 724 (Flores), waits to be heard by its first committee of reference, Health Policy.
Please click here to send a note of gratitude and encouragement to the two bill sponsors, Rep. Jennifer Sullivan and Senator Anitere Flores, for their courage in bringing forward these life-affirming bills.


  Senate Unanimous Jury Bill Passes First Committee; FCCB Urges Movement of House Companion  
  SB 664 (Altman), which requires that an advisory sentence of death be made by a unanimous recommendation of the jury, passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday (5-0). Similar bills in past years have failed to gain traction, making this the first time the proposal has passed a committee of reference. 

Senator Rob Bradley offered the following during the committee's debate on the bill:
"...The most important issue that we ask our juries to consider is the issue of whether the death penalty is appropriate for someone who's murdered somebody, and it's literally a question of life and death - life or death - and it should be a hard decision for all twelve members of that jury...It should be hard, because it's the most important thing we ask of them. And it should be a unanimous decision." 
We are grateful to Catholic Days participants, FLCAN members and social media followers who advocated for support of this bill and answered the call to contact legislators on the Criminal Justice Committee to urge a 'yes' vote. SB 664 moves now to the Judiciary Committee.

Due to the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to hear a Florida appeal related to the role of juries in death sentences, FCCB sees an urgency to reform the capital sentencing process through legislation. Concerned that inaction by the legislature this session may result in sentencing reversals and retrials that burden victims' families and backlogs in our courts, the Conference delivered a letter to Rep. Carlos Trujillo, House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Chair, in support of advancing the House companion bill, HB 139 (Rodriguez, J.).


  House Committee Passes Conscience Protection for Private Child-Placing Agencies  
  After last week's passage of HB 7013 (Brodeur) that strikes current language in Florida statute prohibiting adoption by homosexual persons, the House Health & Human Services Committee submitted a proposed bill to establish conscience protections for private child-placement agencies. HHSC 15-03 protects the licensure, grants and contracts of private adoption agencies that object to participating in the placement of a child if that placement violates the agency's written religious or moral convictions. Michael Sheedy, FCCB executive director, testified before the committee in support of the bill.

A March 18 letter to Senator Don Gaetz, SB 320 sponsor, urges support for retaining the homosexual adoption ban in current law and opposition to any amendments that would align his bill with its House companion, HB 7013, as well as asks for support for the addition of conscience protections. Both bills are available to be heard on the Senate floor.


  Affordable Housing Funds Gain Protection in Both Senate and House  
  On March 18, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed (19-0) an amended version of SB 586 (Dean) that protects affordable housing funds generated from documentary stamps on real-estate transactions as it implements the Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1 on the November 2014 ballot), which also depends on a percentage of available doc stamp revenue for funding.

FCCB is now able to support both SB 586 (Dean) and its House companion, HB 1291 (Boyd), which hold harmless affordable housing funds for vulnerable populations while also meeting the requirements of Amendment 1 to fully fund water and land conservation. Both bills have passed all their committees of reference and will go to the full chambers next.
We thank all FLCAN Network members who responded to our action alert and urged the protection of affordable housing trusts. The number of those who spoke out on this issue was laudable and helped to encourage support from lawmakers.


  Florida Supreme Court Decision Reopens Juvenile Sentences  
  Last year the FCCB supported bills that revised juvenile sentencing guidelines in response to two U.S. Supreme Court rulings which determined that life without parole sentences for juveniles were cruel and unusual punishment, violating the eighth amendment. The new law requires judges to consider certain factors before determining whether or not a life sentence is appropriate and provides sentencing reviews for juveniles who were under 18 at the time they committed the offense. 

In light of this legislation, the Florida Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Florida inmates serving life sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles should be resentenced, applying the provisions of the legislation retroactively. Thursday's court action means that at least 300 inmates could have their sentences revisited and possibly reduced.


  'Right to Try' Act Passes Health Policy with POLST Amendment  
  SB 1052 (Brandes) that allows terminally ill patients to explore medications and treatments currently under clinical trial, but not yet approved by the FDA, was reported favorably (6-1) by the Senate Health Policy Committee. 

In testimony before the committee, Michael Sheedy, FCCB executive director, expressed reservations with an amendment to the bill that provides for the use of a Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form. Unlike an advance directive that requires medical orders to be prepared at the time of a current event, a POLST contains actionable medical orders based on a future theoretical event. Primary concerns cited by the FCCB include inadequately defining the patient population to use the form and the need to better frame issues of of hydration in all levels of medical intervention. SB 1052 as amended will go next to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. A March 20 letter to Senator Jeff Brandes provides additional information on the FCCB's position.

The House companion bill, HB 269 (Pilon), now in the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee, does not include the POLST language.


  Fix to Dual Enrollment Fee Levels Playing Field for Nonpublic Schools  
  During the 2013 session, the legislature approved a funding change to allow colleges and universities to charge public school districts a basic fee for dual-enrollment courses taken by high-school students. Public school districts receive an allocation from the state to pay for dual enrollment, but many nonpublic schools are having to absorb costs for dual-enrollment courses or no longer allow students to take the courses. 
To level the playing field with respect to school choice, SB 874 (Stargel) exempts dual enrollment students from certain fees and requires that instructional materials for dual enrollment courses be provided free of charge to home education program students and private school students in a manner similar to current law for public school students.

The bill passed its first Senate committee, Education Pre-K to 12 (8-3), on Wednesday, March 18 and is now in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. During this week's committee meeting, FCCB staff indicated support for the bill. Also expressing support were several members of the Florida Association of Academic Nonpublic Schools (FAANS). With a membership that represents approximately 1,300 Florida nonpublic schools with more than 300,000 students, FAANS serves as a vital link between nonpublic schools, the Florida Legislature and the Florida Department of Education. Florida Catholic Conference is a FAANS member organization.

Companion measure HB 713 (Perry) is now in the House Higher Education & Workforce Subcommittee.


March 20, 2015

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Week 3 of 9

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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