Inside this issue
  Catholic Days at the Capitol Calls Lawmakers to Protect Human Life and Dignity  
  The annual Catholic Days at the Capitol, a two-day advocacy event that provides opportunity to fulfill the responsibility to participate in political life, was held February 16 and 17. Prayer, nourishment, opening remarks and an explanation of two priority bills, were the focus on Tuesday afternoon. The 2016 issues of concern were Termination of Pregnancies and Unanimous Jury in Capital Sentencing.

On Wednesday, participants had a full day of meeting with legislators, touring the historic capitol building, observing the lawmaking process in action, posing for group photos with their respective bishops, and enjoying a luncheon and awards ceremony.

Two lawmakers, Representatives Larry Ahern (R-Seminole) and Jennifer Sullivan (R-Mt. Dora), were presented with Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops' Defensor Vitae (Defender of Life) awards which recognize ongoing, courageous and valiant defense of the sanctity of life. Read more...

One of the more lighthearted aspects of this year's Catholic Days events had untold numbers of people reaching for their cell phone cameras. The "Holy Father" spent the day on the plaza level of the Capitol smiling and posing for all who wished to snap a quick photo. A life-size, cardboard image of Pope Francis brought smiles to the faces of people young and old who had business in the Capitol on Wednesday. With the exception of a quick visit to the office of Rep. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills), the pope kept a tireless vigil, seemingly propped up by the fervor of the day, near the Catholic Days display table.

Lay faithful were not the only busy people during Catholic Days. The bishops of Florida were also occupied. Both Senate President Andy Gardiner and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam had meetings with our shepherds in order to discuss issues of concern to the Church.

Although most Catholic Days attendees were already headed home when the Senate opened its session at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, some were still getting in their final meetings with legislators. No doubt some of those remaining were able to see and hear the opening prayer offered by Fr. Matthew Busch in the Senate chamber.


  Bishops of Florida Celebrate Red Mass  

As is the custom, Catholic Days at the Capitol came to its official conclusion on Wednesday evening as the lay faithful, members of the Florida bar, legislators, Governor Scott and others of good will joined the bishops in prayer and worship at the 41st Annual Red Mass of the Holy Spirit. Hosted by the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More, the Red Mass invokes the Holy Spirit and asks for divine guidance for those who serve in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, and members of the legal community.

Monsignor David L. Toups, Rector/ President of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach offered the homily. His message focused on the relationships among public service, mercy and justice: "Mercy triumphs over justice when our state, nation, and world begin to see the needs of the most vulnerable and make their cause our cause." Read Msgr. Toups' homily.

Adam Tanenbaum, General Counsel, Florida Department of State, and Senator Anitere Flores (R-Miami) served as lectors at the Mass.


  Pro-Life Abortion Bill Clears Senate Committee  
  SB 1722 (Stargel), a Catholic Days priority bill, was heard and debated in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, its second of three committees, on Wednesday. The measure requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges or a transfer agreement with a hospital not more than thirty (30) minutes away by emergency vehicle. In addition, the bill calls for the prohibition of public funding for an organization that owns, operates, or is affiliated with a licensed abortion clinic, with some exceptions. The bill passed (5-3), and moves next to its third committee, Senate Fiscal Policy. The House companion measure, HB 1411 (Burton), has passed all committees of reference and been placed on the calendar for the full House.  


  House Passes Bill Addressing Unconstitutionality of Florida's Death Sentencing Scheme  
  In response to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hurst v. Florida that found Florida's system for sentencing a person to death unconstitutional, the Florida House on Thursday passed (93-20) HB 7101 that remedies the court's concern that a judge, not a jury, decide whether the circumstances of a crime warrant a sentence of death. In addition, the bill provisions include:
  • After a unanimous finding of guilt, the jury must unanimously find the existence of an aggravating circumstance.
  • Allow the judge to only consider the aggravating circumstances found unanimously by the jury.
  • At least 10 of 12 jurors recommend death in order for a death sentence to be imposed.
The FCCB supports the Senate proposal, SB 7068, which requires unanimity by the jury throughout the sentencing process. However, if Florida is to continue to use the death penalty, a 10-2 jury requirement is an improvement over current law that allows a person to be sentenced to death on a recommendation of only a simple majority of jurors (7 of 12). SB 7068 is referred next to the Senate Appropriations Committee.


  Papal Honor Presented to Dale Recinella  
  At the conclusion of the Red Mass on Wednesday, February 17, Mr. Dale Recinella was presented the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross. Mr. Recinella has demonstrated great zeal for the Catholic Faith and for the works of the Church, particularly during his seventeen years of faithful ministry to the incarcerated and their families, and the families of victims. He is well respected at Florida State Prison which houses Death Row inmates. In addition, he has exhibited obedience to the teachings of the Church and devotion to the Holy Father. Therefore, at the request of the bishops of Florida, Pope Francis has bestowed the Papal Honor of the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross upon Mr. Recinella. The Holy Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal is given for distinguished service to the Church, and is the highest Papal Honor that a lay person can receive in the Catholic Church.  


  Recent News from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)  

February 15, 2016: On the occasion of Pope Francis' visit to Mexico, including the U.S.-Mexico border, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), invited Catholics to pray together "as one Church."


  Follow Us on Social Media  
  Are you following the Catholic bishops on social media? Look for updates and opportunities throughout the session to take action on proposed legislation. Also, as we celebrate this Year of Mercy, look for #MercyMonday posts.

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February 19, 2016

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E-Update: Week 6

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 FCCB priority bills, see our legislative bill report.

The 2016 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature began Tuesday, January 12 and is scheduled to conclude Friday, March 11.

E-Update: Week 1
E-Update: Week 2
E-Update: Week 3
E-Update: Week 4
E-Update: Week 5

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