Inside this issue
  2015 Special Legislative Session Concludes  
  The Special Session of the Florida Legislature came to a close at 6:50 p.m. Friday evening, 6/19/2015.  The House and Senate chambers approved a $78.7 billion state budget for fiscal year 2015-2016. 2500A, the General Appropriations Act, passed the Senate (37-0) and the House (96-17). The budget will now go to Governor Rick Scott who has line item veto authority. FCCB budget priorities included:

Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) Scholarships
Catholic Days at the Capitol Issue
There will be no increase to VPK scholarships, with the House accepting the Senate position to level-fund VPK allocations. FCCB advocated for a $240 increase in per-pupil scholarships for the school-year program, which would have raised the scholarship value to $2,677 per-child and restored it to 2007-2008 levels.  This effort was unsuccessful. Scholarships will remain at $2,437 per child for the school-year program and $2,080 per child for the summer program. 

Pregnancy Support Services
A $4 million allocation for pregnancy support services is included in this year's budget. This represents a $2 million non-recurring increase over previous fiscal years. FCCB has been supportive of this program since its inception in 2006.
Affordable Housing Trust Fund
In a successful bid to assist with Florida housing needs, lawmakers allocated $175 million to affordable housing trust funds, which represents an increase over last year and amounts to 68% of the full $256 million appropriation.

While the FCCB advocated for full funding of affordable housing trust funds, this is a significant success. Funds generated from documentary stamps on real estate transactions provide down payment assistance for first time homeownership as well as funding to renovate and retrofit existing communities or build new communities to accommodate vulnerable populations.


  Pope Francis' "Laudato Si'" Extols Importance of Nurturing All of Creation  
  On June 18, the Vatican released Pope Francis' much-anticipated encyclical, Laudato Si'. Referring to the earth as "our common home," the Holy Father expressed his desire to address "every person living on this planet" about the importance of environmental concerns.

Referring to past popes, other religious and civic leaders, and of course, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis emphasizes the wisdom of appreciating nature with awe in order to avoid being consumers, or, even worse, "ruthless exploiters" of the environment. 

In addition, Pope Francis expounds upon the harmony that God intended between and among peoples of the earth, societies of the earth, and resources of the earth. With all these notions in mind, the Holy Father brings to light the call to stewardship of all that God has gifted to his children.  The full encyclical is available through the Vatican website.

In a statement reflecting on Laudato Si', Miami's Archbishop Thomas J. Wenski reiterates the interwoven nature of the environment and society.  Explaining that we are called to defend not only the earth itself, but also the people who inhabit it, Archbishop Wenski says:
"Minimizing our 'carbon footprint,' implementing sustainable farming  techniques, protecting the O-zone layer, working to reduce waste and pollution are part of 'Creation care' - and in attending to these things, we exercise our stewardship over the earth; but at the same time, defending marriage, promoting the family, protecting the young, are also part of the 'Creation care' necessary for human flourishing on planet Earth."


  Florida Education Association Appeals Dismissal of Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Lawsuit; Florida School Board Association Drops Out  
  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 plaintiffs in McCall v. Scott lacked taxpayer standing in the case and did not allege special injury sufficient to confer standing. 

The Florida School Boards Association voted not to appeal Judge Reynolds' dismissal, but the Florida Education Association (FEA) filed an appeal on Monday, June 15.

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.  During the 2014-2015 school year, Florida's Catholic schools served 11,363 students in the program, which represents 13.5% of the 84,452 students attending Catholic schools in our state.

Disappointed in the FEA's decision to appeal, the Conference continues to support the FTC program 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.


  June 21 to July 4 Marks Annual Fortnight for Freedom  
  In concert with the theme Freedom to Bear Witness, Catholics are called to celebrate and defend religious liberty through prayer, education and action from June 21-July 4, 2015.  During the two-week span, our Church 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.
Threats to religious liberty abound in the United States and around the globe and directly relate to human dignity.  In Pope Francis' Address to the European Parliament last year, the Holy Father expressed the importance of religious freedom by posing the question, "In the end, what kind of dignity is there without the possibility of freely expressing one's thought or professing one's religious faith?"

For more information and resources about the Fortnight, in both English and Spanish, see the USCCB website  Opening and closing Masses will be broadcast on EWTN, and you can find your local EWTN channel here.


June 19, 2015

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Words of Wisdom

"True statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good."

-- Pope Francis
Luadato Si'
June 18, 2015



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