Inside this issue
  Injunction Overturned on Abortion Reflection Period  
  An appeals court Friday overturned a temporary injunction that has blocked a new law requiring women to wait 24 hours before having abortions in Florida. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal said a Leon County circuit judge failed to show the need for the injunction, issued last summer after the Florida Legislature and Governor Rick Scott approved the law. The ruling stated that the lower court "failed to make sufficient factually-supported findings about the existence of a significant restriction on a woman's right to seek an abortion."

The measure, sponsored by Senator Anitere Flores and Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, was supported by the FCCB and a Catholic Days at the Capitol issue during the 2015 legislative session.

With the injunction lifted, a woman will now be provided time to reflect on information received during required counseling by a physician prior to making a decision to abort her child.


  Senate Amends Bill to Require 10-2 Jury Decision for a Death Sentence  
  On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment to SB 7068 that requires at least 10 of 12 jurors agree on a recommendation of death. FCCB staff opposed the amendment, which removed the requirement for a unanimous jury decision in order to impose a death sentence. Unanimity is required in every other circumstance when a jury is summoned in Florida. A unanimous jury requirement promotes more thoughtful deliberation among jurors and ensures a more reliable sentencing process. 

The bill, filed to address a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that found Florida's system for sentencing a person to death unconstitutional, passed the committee (12-6) and will go next to the full Senate.

HB 7101, which also contains the 10-2 jury requirement, passed the full House (93-20) last week. 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).


  Lawmakers Protect Vulnerable Populations from Predatory Guardians  
  Having previously passed the Senate with nearly all senators signing onto the measure as co-sponsors, SB 232 (Detert) earned the support of the House (115-2) on Wednesday. The bill is now ready to be signed into law and will soon head to Governor Scott for his authorization. Rep. Larry Ahern, a recipient of the Defensor Vitae (Defender of Life) Award at this year's Catholic Days at the Capitol, was the sponsor of the companion measure in the House, HB 403.

The bill is intended to safeguard the elderly and other vulnerable populations from unscrupulous guardians. The office under which professional guardians are regulated will now be called the Office of Public and Professional Guardians and will create guardians' standards, investigate complaints against guardians, and discipline guardians who do not maintain the standards set forth.

FCCB staff supported the proposal as it made its way through both the House and the Senate.


  FCCB Opposes Bill Prohibiting Refugee Assistance  
  HB 1095 (Ray), which prohibits the state and persons receiving state funds from assisting certain refugees and immigrants with entry or resettlement in Florida, was passed (9-6) by its final House committee, State Affairs, on Thursday. FCCB staff indicated opposition to the bill during the committee meeting and a letter to the bill sponsor from FCCB executive director Michael Sheedy cited concerns with the proposal.

Provisions of HB 1095:
  • conflict with federal law;
  • disregard the fundamental right of interstate travel by attempting to exclude a particular group from entering our state;
  • fail to recognize the specific term "refugee" refers to a narrow group of the most rigorously vetted migrants seeking U.S. entry; and
  • require Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct duplicative screenings, submitting reports to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is already involved in the screening and entry approval of refugees prior to arrival. 
The Senate companion, SB 1712 (Simpson), has seen no movement this session.


  Juvenile Criminal Records to be Expunged  
  Having unanimously passed the Senate on January 28, SB 386 (Detert) passed (113-2) in the full House chamber on Wednesday. The measure requires automatic expungement of juvenile criminal records when offenders reach the age of 21, with exceptions for those who have been classified as violent or habitual offenders. It goes next to Governor Scott for his signature. The House companion was HB 147 (Latvala, C.).

The FCCB supports this bill which will prevent mistakes made as minors from impeding future success in adulthood, such as in seeking gainful employment.


  Minors Protected from Prosecution for Prostitution  
  On Wednesday, HB 545 (Spano) received final passage on unanimous votes in both the House (117-0) and the Senate (39-0). The bill and its companion, SB 784 (Flores), prevent youth under the age of 18 from being prosecuted for prostitution and reflect that sexually exploiting a child in prostitution should be viewed as human trafficking. FCCB supports the measure which ensures that children involved in prostitution are viewed as victims, not culprits. The bill proceeds next to Governor Scott for his signature.  


  March 15 Presidential Preference Primary - Discerning Your Vote  
  The right to vote carries with it a responsibility to study and know the candidates. As citizens of faith, we are led to question how each candidate if elected will address issues that protect or threaten the dignity of every human life. There are moral and ethical dimensions to every public policy. However, issues carry different moral weight and urgency. Some involve intrinsically evil acts that can never be approved, such as the intentional destruction of innocent human life. Others involve an obligation to seek the common good.

The FCCB offers a document to assist in discerning where the candidates stand on important issues in light of our foundational beliefs.

Florida's March 15 Presidential Preference Primary (PPP) is a closed-primary election. This means that you must be a registered with one of Florida's major political parties to be eligible to vote in the PPP. Eligible voters can vote by mail (absentee), by voting early, or by voting at the polls on Election Day. You can check your voter regstration status and polling place on the website of the Florida Division of Elections.


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

February 25, 2016: Fourteen bishops representing the Catholic Church in Canada, Latin America and the United States concluded three days of prayer and dialogue at the 38th Meeting of the Bishops of the Church in America. The bishops spoke of a strong sense of fraternity and solidarity as they shared their pastoral experiences of being one Church in America.

February 22, 2016: The annual Catholic Relief Services Collection will be held in most parishes on March 6, Laetare Sunday. The collection supports Catholic organizations that carry out international relief and solidarity efforts and continues to help those suffering at home and across the globe who are all Jesus in disguise.  


  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 26, 2016

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E-Update: Week 7

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
E-Update: Week 6

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