Inside this issue
  Conscience Protections Pass Florida House; Shield not Sword for Adoption Agencies  
  On Thursday, April 9, the full House passed HB 7111 (HHS Committee; Brodeur) (75-38). By establishing conscience protections for private adoption agencies, HB 7111 is a shield, not a sword. The bill ensures that religious entities in Florida can continue to place children in loving homes without being forced to violate their consciences, while adding no new barriers to adoption by qualified Floridians.

On Wednesday, during nearly 3 hours of debate on numerous amendments to the bill, Chairman Brodeur stood steadfast in his support for the freedom of people of faith to serve their communities in a manner that respects their deeply held religious and moral convictions. All proposed amendments that sought to weaken the bill failed. Prior to the final vote on Thursday, Chairman Brodeur and several members of the House spoke strongly in support of religious liberty. The bill will now go to the Senate.

FCCB press release praising passage of HB 7111 by the House.

In the Senate on Wednesday, April 8, a separate adoption-related measure, HB 7013, was taken up. This bill includes a provision to strike from Florida law a long-standing prohibition on adoption by homosexual persons. Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), holding to her moral convictions, attempted to amend the bill to maintain the ban in law. Even though an amendment by Stargel would have preserved the underlying bill which provides adoption incentives for state employees, the effort was portrayed by the bill's sponsor, Senator Don Gaetz (R-Destin), as an attempt to kill the bill, and the amendment failed.
Although a 2010 ruling by Florida's Third District Court of Appeal has allowed adoption by same-sex couples to become the practice throughout our state, striking the ban without providing for conscience protections jeopardizes the freedom of religious adoption agencies to place children in a manner consistent with the tenets of their faith. While maintaining the statutory ban on homosexual adoption is preferred, if this legislation is passed by the Senate, conscience protections are crucial. A final vote by the Senate is expected next week.
The FCCB thanks all FLCAN subscribers who urged their representatives to vote 'yes' on HB 7111 in response to our critical call to action. Please continue to respond on this issue and urge the Senate to pass HB 7111 and ensure conscience protections for religious adoption agencies.


  Measure that Limits Charging Youth as Adults Advances in Senate  
  SB 1082 (Altman) passed the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice (4-2) on Wednesday, April 8. The bill, supported by FCCB, modifies two of Florida's current methods by which juveniles are charged as adults. 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 the process of indictment. Current statute also allows a prosecutor to transfer a youth aged 14 or older to adult court through another process referred to as direct file, without input from the judge or defense attorney. The bill limits charging juveniles as adults through indictment to youth 14 or older and specifies the offenses for which 14-17 year olds may be transferred to adult court through direct file. SB 1082 goes next to Senate Appropriations. 

The companion, HB 783 (Edwards), has two additional stops in the House, Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and Judiciary Committee.


  Health Care Expansion to Cover Low Income Floridians Appears Unlikely  
  The likelihood that the 2015 Florida Legislature will provide basic health care services to nearly 800,000 low income Floridians appears to be in jeopardy. Currently, a $5 billion difference exists between House and Senate budgets. The spending gap is primarily due to $2.2 billion required to cover the costs of the Low Income Pool (LIP), a federal funding program for hospitals to cover uncompensated care, and $2.8 billion a Senate proposal to providing supplemental insurance premiums for low income individuals up to 133% for the federal poverty level. The Senate's plan depends on federal funding but is significantly different in structure from a general entitlement program such as Medicaid.

The debate focuses on uncertainty that the federal government will fulfill its financial obligations under the Affordable Care Act and its extension of the LIP Program, set to expire this year. The Florida House, and now Governor Scott, have expressed opposition to any form of Medicaid expansion, making a joint solution less likely this Session.


  Nothing is Certain Except Death and Taxes...and that God Loves You  
  National Health Care Decisions Day is Thursday, April 16
The day after taxes are due, we are provided with an opportunity to reflect on our mortality. Designating a health care surrogate and providing guidance for end of life decisions is the best way to ensure that morally acceptable procedures are followed if you become incapacitated or unable to express your own wishes in the event of a medical emergency.
In an effort to assist the lay faithful with advanced care planning and end of life decisions, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops provides the Catholic Declaration on Life and Death in both English and Spanish through its website. It is available for free download and printing at any time.
If you have not already done so, please consider making use of this advance directive, which combines a designation of health care surrogate and living will into one document. You can also find in English and Spanish the document Understanding the Catholic Declaration on Life and Death, which addresses common concerns and questions.

And remember, God loves you.


  Update on the 2015 Catholic Days at the Capitol Issues  
  With over half of the 60-day Legislative Session now behind us, the following provides a brief update on the current status of this year's four Catholic Days issues:
  • 24-Hour Reflection Prior to an Abortion - SB 724 (Flores) / HB 633 (Sullivan): HB 633 has passed all three committees of reference and is waiting to be heard in the House chamber. SB 724 has passed its first committee and is scheduled for its second, Senate Judiciary, Wednesday, April 15. It will then have one final committee, Fiscal Policy, before the full Senate takes it up. If you have not already thanked the two bill sponsors for their courage in bringing forward these life-affirming bills, please do so now.
  • Restoring Per-Pupil Scholarships for the VPK Program to 2007-2008 School-Year Levels: Currently, the House budget includes a $43 increase per-pupil for the school-year program, while the Senate budget holds per-pupil funding level. Differences between the House and Senate plans will be resolved in a series of budget conference meetings.
  • KidCare Expansion for Lawfully Residing Immigrant Children - SB 294 (Garcia) / HB 829 (La Rosa): After passing its first two committees of reference early in the session, SB 294 has stalled. HB 829 has yet to be heard in committee. With uncertainty around health care budget provisions, it is possible this proposal will not advance further this session.
  • Requiring a Unanimous Jury Recommendation for a Death Sentence - SB 664 (Altman) / HB 139 (Rodriguez, J.): Early in the session, SB 664 passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee (5-0), making this the first year the proposal has passed a committee of reference. It will be heard by its second of three references, Senate Judiciary, Wednesday, April 15. HB 139 has not been taken up by its first committee.
Please continue to review our weekly legislative e-updates for any additional action on these proposals.


April 10, 2015

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Week 6 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.

Previous Weekly E-Updates:
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5


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