Inside this issue
  Juvenile Justice Measures Seek Penalties Appropriate for Youth Offenders  
  FCCB supports two proposals that establish reasonable means to protect society from juvenile crime while treating youth according to their cognitive abilities and making the most of their capacity to reform and transform their lives and future behavior.
On Thursday, March 26, SB 378 (Garcia) was unanimously (5-0) passed by the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee. The bill authorizes law enforcement officers to issue a warning, inform the child's parent or guardian of the child's infraction, or issue a civil citation to a juvenile who admits having committed a misdemeanor. After passing its first committee of reference earlier this month, companion, HB 99 (Clarke-Reed), is scheduled to be heard by the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, March 30, 12:30 pm.
SB 1082 (Altman) passed (4-1) the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday, March 23. The bill modifies two of Florida's current methods by which juveniles are charged as adults. These methods are indictment and direct file.
Presently, a juvenile of any age who is charged with an offense punishable by death or life imprisonment is subject to be tried as an adult through indictment. The bill limits this method to juveniles 14 or older where there is currently no minimum. 

The current direct file statute allows a prosecutor to transfer a youth aged 14 or older to adult court, without input from the judge or defense attorney. The bill specifies the offenses for which 14-17 year olds may be direct filed.

A similar measure, HB 783 (Edwards) passed its first committee last week, but has not yet been scheduled for the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.


  Bills Protecting Victims of Human Trafficking See Movement in Both Chambers  
  FCCB supports the following measures designed to increase the safety and privacy of trafficking victims and enhance penalties for those who contribute to their victimization:
SB 1106 (Flores) / HB 465 (Spano): Provide for increased penalties for traffickers and people who employ or solicit trafficked individuals for prostitution or similar crimes.
SB 1108 (Flores) / HB 467 (Spano): Help protect the identity of trafficking victims through certain exemptions to public records laws.
SB 1110 (Flores) / HB 469 (Spano): Provide an exemption from public records requirements the location of safe houses, safe foster homes, and other residential facilities serving victims of sexual exploitation.
The three Senate measures passed unanimously in their first committee of reference, Criminal Justice, on Monday, March 23. SB 1106 is now in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice; SB 1108 and SB 1110 are on the agenda for Governmental Oversight and Accountability, March 31, 10:30 am.
On Thursday, March 26, the House measures were passed unanimously by their final committee of reference, Judiciary, and will go next to the House floor.


  Initial Budget Proposals, VPK Allocations Passed by House and Senate Appropriations  
  On Wednesday, March 25, Appropriations Committees in both the House and Senate passed their proposed state budgets for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2016. The spending plans, along with their conforming and implementing bills, now head to their respective chamber floors where lawmakers will offer amendments and vote on the proposals. Differences between the House and Senate plans will then be resolved in a series of budget conference meetings.
Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) Scholarship Allocations
Within the current House and Senate proposed budgets are the following allocations for VPK Scholarship funding:
  • House - a $43 or 1.75% increase to $2,480 for the school-year program ($2,116 for the summer)
  • Senate - level-funded with $2,437 for the school year ($2,080 for the summer) 
During Catholic Days at the Capitol, participants advocated for a $240 increase in per-pupil scholarships for the school-year program, which would raise the scholarship value to $2,677 per-child. This would restore the scholarship to the high-water mark set for the 2007-2008 school-year levels. The FCCB will continue to urge higher funding levels for this program that empowers parents to best meet their child's needs at a foundational stage for academic development.


  Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts Pass Committees in Both House and Senate  
  The House Education Appropriations Subcommittee passed an expansion of the Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSA) program on Tuesday, March 24. The program was created by lawmakers during the 2014 session to allow students with disabilities the option to apply for scholarship funds to cover a wide range of education-related costs such as tuition and fees at private schools, instructional materials or tutoring services. HB 7095 (Education/ Bileca) expands PLSA eligibility to include all students on the autism spectrum as well as students with muscular dystrophy. The Senate version, SB 602 (Gaetz, D.), passed its final committee, Senate Appropriations, March 25. FCCB staff indicated support for both bills at their committee stops, and the measures will now head to the floor of their chambers.  


  Looking Forward to Next Week: 24-Hour Reflection Prior to Abortion on Senate Committee Agenda  
  SB 724 (Flores) 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 proceeding with the termination of her pregnancy. The bill is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Health Policy Committee on Tuesday, March 31 at 10:00 am.
If your Florida state senator is a member of the Health Policy Committee, be on the lookout for a call to action from the Florida Catholic Advocacy Network (FLCAN) asking you to contact your lawmaker and urge a 'yes' vote on this pro-life bill.


March 27, 2015

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Week 4 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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