Inside this issue
  Senate Judiciary Committee Passes 24-Hour Reflection Period  
  SB 724 (Flores) provides a woman at least 24 hours to reflect on information about her unborn child and the risks of abortion before proceeding with the termination of her pregnancy. The bill passed Senate Judiciary, its second committee of reference, on Wednesday, April 15 and will be heard in the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee, its final committee of reference, on Monday, April 20 at 1:00 pm.

HB 633 (Sullivan), the House companion, has passed all committees of reference and waits to be heard on the floor of the House.
If you have not yet had the opportunity to thank the two bill sponsors for their courage in bringing forward these life-affirming bills, click here to send Representative Jennifer Sullivan and Senator Anitere Flores a note of gratitude and encouragement.


  Unanimous Jury Requirement Runs Out of Time  
  Despite being placed on the Senate Judiciary agenda for April 15, SB 664 (Altman) was not heard by the committee because time expired before the bill was presented. This Catholic Days at the Capitol priority bill requires that an advisory sentence of death be made by a unanimous recommendation of the jury. Under current Florida law a decision by only a simple majority (7-5) of the jurors is required to sentence someone to death.
The companion, HB 139 (Rodriguez, J.), has not been taken up by its first committee.


  Bill Striking Adoption Ban to be Sent to Governor; Conscience Protections Crucial  
  HB 7013, which provides incentives for adoption and also strikes from Florida law a long-standing prohibition on adoption by homosexual persons, has passed both the House and Senate and will go to Governor Rick Scott for action.

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 and foster care agencies to place children in loving homes in a manner consistent with the tenets of their faith. With the passage of HB 7013, conscience protections for adoption agencies are crucial.

HB 7111, which contains conscience protections for private adoption and foster care agencies, passed the House on April 9. The bill has been sent to the Senate and is on the agenda for the Senate Rules Committee on Monday, April 20 at 1:00 pm.

As a "shield not a sword", HB 7111 protects religious adoption agencies from being forced to either violate their religious convictions or stop serving children in need of loving families. Catholic Charities offices in Massachusetts, Illinois and California faced with similar circumstances have had no choice but to severely restrict or discontinue their adoption services.
The bill adds no new barriers to the adoption process for any qualified Florida residents who can and do work with the majority of Florida's 82 private adoption agencies today. Similar conscience protections are already in place in Florida law related to abortion, family planning, end-of-life decisions and participation in executions.
If your senator is a member of the Rules Committee, it is critical that you take action now to urge him or her to vote 'YES' on HB 7111. Even if you have sent an earlier message on this issue, your senator needs to hear from you again.


  Legislators Help Victims of Human Trafficking  
  The following measures, supported by the FCCB, 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.
Thursday, April 16, brought positive outcomes on both sides of the Capitol. The Senate bills unanimously passed Appropriations, their final committee of reference, while the House bills passed their full chamber, also unanimously.


  Florida House Urged to Address Access to Health Care  
  As reported last week, the likelihood that the 2015 Florida Legislature will provide basic health care services to nearly 800,000 low-income residents of our state appears to be in jeopardy.

The Senate has developed a proposal to extend health coverage to low-income Floridians and has included an appropriation in its proposed budget. However, the House has offered no plan and its budget lacks appropriations for expansion of coverage or supplemental funding for uncompensated care.

Persons with incomes above 133% of the federal poverty level (FPL), up to 400% FPL, are eligible for federal subsidies to purchase health insurance. Ironically, those with incomes below 133% FPL receive no assistance with health insurance premiums. Over 70% of these are Florida's "working poor".

The right to accessible health care stems from the sanctity of human life and the dignity that belongs to all human persons who are made in the image and likeness of God. As a community, we have a responsibility to ensure that our vulnerable members have access to care.
Click here to contact your member of the Florida House of Representatives to urge a solution to Florida's health care crisis.


April 17, 2015

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Week 7 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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