Inside this issue
  Enhanced Abortion Regulations Pass Full House  
  HB 1411 (Burton) and its companion SB 1722 (Stargel), Catholic Days priority bills, require 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 bills call for the prohibition of public funding for an organization that owns, operates, or is affiliated with a licensed abortion clinic, with some exceptions.

After lengthy debate in the House chamber on Thursday, HB 1411 (Burton) passed the full House (74-44). On Friday, the Senate temporarily postponed SB 1722. The measure is expected to be taken up and voted on by the Senate next week.
If you have not yet had the opportunity to send a message to your state senator urging a 'yes' vote on HB 1411/SB 1722, please click here to take action.

Pictured above: Ingrid Delgado, associate for social concerns/respect life (left) and bill sponsor, Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland).


  Lawmakers Pass Compromise Requiring 10-2 Jury Decision for a Death Sentence  
  On the first day of the 2016 Legislative Session, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision that found Florida's system for sentencing a person to death unconstitutional because it allows a judge, not the jury, to decide whether the circumstances of a crime warrant a sentence of death.

HB 7101, which passed the full House (93-20) last week, addresses the decision and requires at least 10 of 12 jurors agree when recommending death. The Senate took up the measure on Wednesday and debated an amendment to require a unanimous jury recommendation, a provision passed earlier in the Session by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. The effort narrowly failed (17-23), and the Senate passed the bill with the 10-2 requirement on Thursday (35-5). The bill was immediately sent to Governor Scott for his signature.

Although the FCCB supports a unanimous jury decision, 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).


  Religious Liberty Protections Passed and Sent to Governor  
  After passing the House on Wednesday, HB 43 (Plakon) achieved final passage in the Senate on Thursday, and is on its way to Governor Scott for his signature. The bill prevents churches or religious organizations - or individuals employed by these entities, including clergy - from being forced to solemnize any marriage or provide services, facilities or goods for related purposes if such action would violate sincerely held religious beliefs.

Religious freedom requires protection due to many uncertainties under the law as a result of last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that redefined marriage to accommodate same-sex couples. While clergy are currently protected from performing marriages to which they object, layers of protection in law can be helpful, especially if they stave off frivolous litigation.

Pictured above: Michael Sheedy, FCCB executive director (left), with Senator Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville), sponsor of the measure in the Senate, SB 110. Senator Bean was a 2005 Defensor Vitae (Defender of Life) Award recipient.


  House Passes KidCare for Legally-Residing Immigrant Children  
  HB 89 (Diaz, J.), which eliminates the five-year waiting period for low-income, lawfully-residing immigrant children to participate in the KidCare insurance program, unanimously passed (118-0) the full House on Thursday. The proposal maintains the exclusion of eligibility for undocumented immigrants of any age.

The Senate companion bill, SB 248 (Garcia), has yet to be heard by Senate Appropriations; however, implementing language and a $28.8 million allocation is included in both House and Senate budgets and will become law with approval of the budget implementing bill.

The proposal, which promotes healthier children and families in Florida, has been a perennial priority of the FCCB and a previous Catholic Days at the Capitol issue.


  Transition-to-Work for Students with Disabilities Clears Final Senate Committee  
  Prior to unanimous approval (16-0) by Senate Appropriations on Thursday, FCCB staff expressed support for SB 1088 (Stargel), a proposal that develops a 'transition-to-work' program for recipients of the McKay Scholarship. The program, jointly offered by private schools and businesses, would include academic instruction, work skills training and a paid or volunteer work experience for young adults aged 17-22 with disabilities. SB 1088 will now head to the full Senate. Its House companion, HB 837 (Bileca), has already passed the House and is available to be taken up in the Senate chamber.  


  Help with Avoiding Suspension of Driver License Amended to Transportation Bill  
  At a meeting of the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee on Monday, FCCB staff supported an amendment to SB 1394 (Brandes), a bill relating to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The amendment requires that a payment plan option be included on a notice of driving privilege suspension due to nonpayment of a fine. If the violator is unable to pay the citation in full, he or she may avoid a suspension by agreeing to a payment plan, based on his or her ability to pay.

The amended bill was passed (7-0) by the committee and heard on the floor of the full Senate on Friday. A vote in the Senate is expected next week.


  Early Voting Begins: Discerning Your Presidential Primary Vote in Light of Your Faith  

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.

The FCCB offers a document, available in both English and Spanish, to assist in discerning where the candidates stand on important issues in light of our foundational beliefs.

Early voting for Florida's March 15 Presidential Preference Primary (PPP) will be underway in all counties this weekend. The Florida Division of Elections provides a list of early voting locations and times (English | Spanish).

In Florida, the PPP is a closed-primary election; therefore you must be a registered with one of Florida's major political parties to be eligible to vote. For more information on the Presidential Preference Primary, visit the website of the Florida Division of Elections.


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

March 3, 2016: USCCB Child and Youth Protection Chairman Underscores Importance of Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by the U.S. bishops in 2002.


  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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March 4, 2016

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E-Update: Week 8

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
E-Update: Week 7

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