Inside this issue
  Florida Legislature Convenes for Special Session on Budget and Health Care  
  Due to an impasse stemming from opposing positions on health care funding between the House and Senate, the Florida legislature failed to pass a state budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year during this spring's regular session.

Passing a budget is the only constitutional duty of the legislature; therefore, lawmakers were required to return to the Capitol on June 1 for a special session. The session is scheduled to conclude by June 20, so that a final budget can be sent to Governor Rick Scott for his signature before the July 1 start of the fiscal year.

This week the House and Senate convened to pass their initial spending plans. The two chambers will now meet in budget conferences to negotiate the differences between their proposals. 

Much of the debate during the week focused on a Senate proposal (SB 2-A) to provide low-income, working Floridians subsidized health insurance. The "Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange" or "FHIX" plan would use federal Medicaid funds to assist up to 800,000 Floridians with the purchase of private health insurance. After passing two committees early this week, the Senate passed the bill (33-3) on Wednesday. Despite Senate efforts to amend the proposal to address concerns of House leadership, many representatives remained staunchly opposed to the legislation and the bill failed to pass the full House on Friday (41-72). The FCCB supports the expansion of accessible, quality health care in Florida by extending coverage to the uninsured. A letter from Michael B. Sheedy, FCCB executive director, to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli responds to House concerns with Medicaid expansion.

Additional budget issues that the FCCB will be closely following this special session include funding for pregnancy support services, Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) Scholarships, and affordable housing trust funds.


  Urge Governor Scott to Sign HB 633: 24-Hour Reflection Prior to Abortion  

HB 633 by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Eustis) received final passage during the legislative session and was sent to Governor Rick Scott on May 27. The governor has until June 10 to either sign the bill or veto it, or he can let the measure become law without taking action. The Senate companion bill was filed by Senator Anitere Flores (R-Miami).

HB 633 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 also requires the physician providing the information to be physically present in the room with the patient. An exemption to the 24-hour reflection period is provided for a woman who presents a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical record, or other court order or documentation evidencing that she is a victim of rape, incest, domestic violence, or human trafficking.

Florida law does not currently provide time to reflect prior to making the irreversible decision to terminate a pregnancy, although one is required before: marriage (three days); dissolution of marriage (20 days); purchase of a handgun (three days); and cremation (48 hours).

Presently, 26 states require women to wait a specified period of time, between 18 and 72 hours, after mandated counseling before obtaining an abortion. These include the surrounding states of Georgia (24 hours) and Alabama (48 hours).

Please urge Governor Scott to sign HB 633 and make a 24-hour reflection period prior to an abortion the law in the state of Florida .


  Lawsuit Disputing Constitutionality of Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Dismissed; Appeal Likely  
  On May 18, 2015, Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds dismissed a lawsuit that claimed the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program violates the Florida Constitution. Judge Reynolds ruled that the Florida Education Association, Florida Schools Board Association and other plaintiffs in McCall v. Scott lacked taxpayer standing in the case and did not allege special injury sufficient to confer standing.
FTC Scholarships are not funded by legislative appropriations but by tax-credited corporate contributions; therefore, no direct tax dollars are used to fund the program. Additionally, the plaintiffs could not show that the program harms public school funding or quality of education. Rather, as explained in an op-ed by James Herzog, FCCB Associate Director for Education, the scholarship program has proven to strengthen Florida's education system and improve Florida's finances.

Since enacted by the Florida Legislature in 2001, the FTC Scholarship Program has been providing hope and opportunity to thousands of students from low-income households. Attacking the program threatens economically disadvantaged families and children who through FTC scholarships have access to educational choices that would otherwise be unattainable.
During the 2013-2014 school year, Florida's Catholic schools served 9,448 students in the program, which represents 11% of the 84,750 pre-k-12 students attending Catholic schools in our state. The Conference supports this scholarship program as a successful component of school choice, as a means to assist low-income families, and as a proven method of contributing to the common good and the education of all Florida students. As such, the bishops applaud the decision by Judge Reynolds.

The plaintiffs in the case have indicated they are considering an appeal of the judge's ruling.


  Catholics to Celebrate Religious Freedom with Two Weeks of Prayer, Education and Action  
  As threats to religious freedom continue to emerge both at home and abroad, the Church will celebrate the fourth annual Fortnight for Freedom from June 21 to July 4, 2015. During this two-week period our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power - St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.
The theme of this year's Fortnight, Freedom to Bear Witness, stems from the Gospel message that Jesus came to the world to bear witness to the truth. Our constitutional right to religious freedom goes beyond the freedom to worship inside the walls of our churches and our homes. In a June 2014 address, Pope Franics stated, "Religious freedom is not only that of private thought or worship. It is the liberty to live, both privately and publicly, according to the ethical principles resulting from found truth."
Information about the Fortnight and various resources to help plan local activities are available in English and Spanish at Check with your parish or diocese for events in your area.
The following brief video highlights how religious freedom allows the Church to bear witness to Christ as it serves and cares for the members of our society.



  Mary Camp to Serve as Vice President of National School Accrediting Group  
  Mary Camp, Associate Director for Accreditation, has been elected the Vice President for the National Council for Private School Accreditation (NCPSA). Camp and other newly-elected officers will begin a two-year period of service after the conclusion of the NCPSA's national meetings, held June 8-10, 2015 in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The NCPSA is a consortium of accrediting associations that serves as a national review panel for the standards and review procedures of private school accrediting associations.

"I am honored to be selected as the vice president of the National Council for Private School Accreditation," Camp stated in response to her nomination. "The Florida Catholic Conference has been a member of NCPSA for many years, and I have been the secretary for the last two years. Our involvement with these associations gives us an international perspective on school accreditation and a means to have our own standards and procedures reviewed. I am happy to continue serving on the executive board of NCPSA."


  Gabe Tischler Honored at Annual Governor's Hurricane Conference  
  Gabe Tischler, Emergency Management Specialist, Catholic Charities of Florida, Inc., was the recipient of the Public/Private Achievement Award at a luncheon held May 14 in Orlando for participants of the 29th Annual Governor's Hurricane Conference®. The award was presented to Tischler for his unwavering dedication and tireless work to support the needs of disaster survivors and his selfless and exceptional contributions from the not-for-profit sector.

Nominated by the Florida Commission on Community Service - Volunteer Florida, Tischler is recognized for both his skill and his willing spirit. Tischler has led numerous response and recovery missions across the state, sacrificing both personal comfort and time to serve the victims of disaster. His current work includes guiding a team assisting approximately 200 Washington and Walton county families who have suffered from flooding events in 2013 and 2014.

In partnership with the Florida Catholic Conference, Catholic Charities of Florida, Inc. serves, advocates for, and empowers vulnerable populations by increasing their ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.

Read the entire news release.


June 5, 2015

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Words of Wisdom

"It is better to have a Church that is wounded but out in the streets than a Church that is sick because it is closed in on itself."

-- Pope Francis
Twitter, May 16, 2015


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