Inside this issue
  Legislature Passes Budget; Session Concludes  
  The Regular Session of the Florida Legislature came to a close (sine die) at 6:45 p.m. on Friday, March 11. The motion to adjourn sine die, Latin for 'without day,' is the last action of a session of the Florida legislature.

The House and Senate chambers approved an $82.3 billion state budget for fiscal year 2016-2017. HB 5001, the General Appropriations Act, passed the House (119-1) and the Senate (40-0). The budget will now go to Governor Rick Scott who has line item veto authority.

The final status of FCCB budget priorities include:

Pregnancy Support Services: The budget allocates an additional $2 million in recurring funds for a total of $4 million to a network of pregnancy help centers that provides services such as pregnancy and childbirth education, counseling, referrals, and infant care and parenting classes. The budget allows for funding of additional assistance with wellness services and life skills. FCCB has been supportive of this program since its inception in 2005.

Kidcare: Budget contains a $28.8 million allocation and implementing language eliminating the five-year waiting period for low-income, lawfully-residing immigrant children to participate in the KidCare insurance program. The exclusion of eligibility for undocumented immigrants of any age has been maintained. The measure has been a perennial priority of the FCCB and a previous Catholic Days at the Capitol issue.

Affordable Housing: The legislature has appropriated $200 million of affordable housing trust fund dollars, an increase of $25 million from last year. However, it sweeps $116 million of available housing trust funds to general revenue. The FCCB has long supported full funding of housing trusts to assist vulnerable populations with affordable housing needs.

Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK): Despite FCCB recommendations to increase the individual scholarship amount by at least $50, the budget level funds the scholarship at $2,437 per child for the upcoming school year. During budget negotiations, the House had recommended a $37 per-child increase. The Senate proposed level funding and that position ultimately prevailed.

Bolstering VPK funding has been a recent Catholic Days at the Capitol issue. Per-pupil scholarship amounts currently remain lower than 2007-2008 school-year levels. Lower funding makes it challenging for schools to continue serving children participating in the program. 

A final session summary on the final status of bills engaged by the FCCB will be forthcoming.


  Bill Enhancing Abortion Regulations Passes and Goes to Governor  
  HB 1411 (Burton) was passed by the Senate (25-15) and returned to the House on Wednesday where it received final passage (76-40). On Friday, the bill was sent to Governor Rick Scott who has until March 26 to act on the measure. This Catholic Days at the Capitol priority 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. It also requires comprehensive reporting of abortion statistics to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In a press release on Wednesday, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops commended our state legislature for passing legislation that aims to protect the health and safety of women who choose abortion. Although we seek to protect all life, including unborn life, we also recognize that some women do choose abortion. Unfortunately, there are discrepancies in the level of care women receive at abortion clinics compared to the care offered at other health care facilities. This bill addresses this disparity.

Pictured L to R: Sen. Kelli Stargel, Rep. Colleen Burton
Please take a moment of your time to thank Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) and Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland) for sponsoring this life-affirming legislation. Click here to send a thank you message.


  New Death Sentencing Scheme Signed into Law  
  On Monday, Governor Scott signed into law a new death sentencing scheme that addresses a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The January 12 ruling in Hurst v. Florida found Florida's system for sentencing a person to death unconstitutional because it allows a judge, not the jury, to find each fact necessary to impose a death sentence. The legislation also requires that at least 10 of 12 jurors agree when recommending death. 

The FCCB opposes the use of the death penalty since other means are available to keep society safe and punish offenders. However, we have long advocated for requiring a unanimous jury decision to ensure a more reliable and fair sentencing process as long as our state continues to use the death penalty. A 10-2 jury requirement is an improvement over previous law that allowed a person to be sentenced to death on a recommendation of only a simple majority of jurors (7 of 12).


  Students with Disabilities to Receive Help with Transition-to-Work  
  HB 837 (Bileca) was amended by the Senate, passed unanimously (39-0) and received final passage (114-0) in the House on Wednesday. The proposal develops a 'transition-to-work' program for recipients of the McKay Scholarship. The program, jointly offered by private schools and businesses, includes academic instruction, work skills training and a paid or volunteer work experience for young adults aged 17-22 with disabilities. FCCB supported the measure and its companion in the Senate, SB 1088 (Stargel), as they made their way through the legislative process. On Friday, the measure was sent to Governor Scott for his signature.

Pictured above: Rep. Michael Bileca (R-Miami)


  Florida's Presidential Primary Is Tuesday, March 15  

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 you in examining where the candidates stand on key issues in light of our foundational beliefs.

Early voting for Florida's March 15 Presidential Preference Primary (PPP) is underway in all counties. 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 9, 2016: U.S. Bishops join 24 other faith-based organizations in a U.S. Supreme Court amicus curiae brief defending stays of deportations.

March 8, 2016: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Administrative Committee issued a statement, March 8, honoring the work and the lives of the four religious sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, who along with 12 other people were murdered in Yemen, March 4. 


  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 11, 2016

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E-Update: Week 9

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 concluded 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
E-Update: Week 8

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