Inside this issue
  2017 Legislative Session Begins; Governor Scott Delivers State of the State  
  On Tuesday morning, March 7, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Florida Senate President Joe Negron convened their chambers to begin the 2017 Florida Legislative Session. 

As is the custom on the opening day of the session, Governor Rick Scott delivered his annual State of the State Address. The governor commended the resiliency of Floridians in light of the tragedies of the past year: the gruesome attack at Pulse Nightclub, two hurricanes, the fight against the Zika virus and the shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale airport. While remembering these, he also recognized that "Floridians are strong. Floridians are selfless. Floridians are fighters."
Governor Scott also discussed his priorities for the upcoming lawmaking season, including economic growth and public safety.

Read the full text of the Governor's State of the State address here.


  President Trump Visits Orlando Catholic School  
L to R: President Donald Trump, Latrina Peters-Gipson, principal, St. Andrew Catholic School, and Henry Fortier, secretary of education and superintendent of schools, Diocese of Orlando. (Photo credit: Jean Gonzalez | Florida Catholic)

On Friday, March 3, St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando hosted several of our government leaders. President Donald Trump, along with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Rick Scott, toured two classrooms at the school and then participated in a roundtable discussion concerning the benefits of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program. Among those on the panel were students, former students, parents, teachers and school administrators.

James Herzog, FCCB associate director of education, was present at the school and able to observe the roundtable discussion. Click here to read a blog post about his observations.


  Unanimous Jury Requirement for a Death Sentence Receives Final Passage  
  During the committee weeks leading up to the 2017 legislative session, Florida lawmakers acted quickly to address an October 2016 Florida Supreme Court decision that struck down the state's death sentencing scheme. The state's high court ruled that a new 2016 law requiring agreement of only 10 of 12 jurors to recommend death was unconstitutional.

SB 280 (Bracy), which requires that jury recommendations for death sentences be unanimous, was passed by both chambers receiving final passage on Friday, March 9. The measure will now go to Governor Scott for his signature.  

The FCCB supports ending the use of the death penalty, since the alternative sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole can keep society safe without taking an additional life. However, for many years we have also supported unanimous jury legislation as an incremental improvement in the law as long as the State of Florida maintains its use of the death penalty.

The FCCB urges lawmakers to give further deliberation to additional areas of concern as Florida applies the death penalty, such as:
  • much greater cost than life without parole;
  • disproportionate application among the poor and severely mentally ill;
  • broad aggravating factors that do not sufficiently narrow defendants eligible for the death penalty;
  • lack of deterrent effect;
  • Florida's high rate of death row exonerations (26 individuals); and
  • effects on victims' families relative to a quicker life without parole resolution.
More on the Church's teaching on the death penalty.


  Sadowski Coalition Calls on Legislature to Use All Housing Trust Fund Monies for Housing Programs  
  The Sadowski Housing Coalition - made up of 30 diverse statewide organizations, including industry and business groups; advocates for the elderly, veterans, homeless and special needs populations; and faith-based organizations - gathered March 2 to call on the Florida Legislature to use all state and local housing trust fund monies for affordable housing programs in Fiscal Year 2017-18. Michele Taylor, associate director for communications, represented the FCCB at the press conference. 

During the press conference, the Florida Housing Coalition, released its 2017 Florida "Home Matters Report." The data contained in the report overwhelmingly supports the full appropriation of housing trust funds for housing. 

In summary, this year's report found the following:
  • More than 910,000 very low-income Florida households - which include hardworking families,seniors and people with disabilities - pay more than 50 percent of their incomes on housing; and,
  • Florida, the third largest state, also has the third-highest homeless population of any state in the nation, with approximately 34,000 people living in homeless shelters and on the streets, including 2,902 veterans and 6,140 children.


  School Choice Expansion Passes First Hurdle in the House  
  HB 15 by Representative Jennifer Sullivan (R-Eustis) passed its first committee of reference (12-3) on Tuesday, March 7. The bill contains several provisions that increase access to school choice, including: 
  • expanding the McKay Scholarship Program for students with disabilities by reducing the requirement to spend the prior year in a public school to a semester or less;
  • establishing a higher per-child scholarship amount for middle and high school students in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program; and
  • expanding eligibility for Gardiner Scholarship Program to include students with a disability of "other health impaired" such as ADHD/ADD.
FCCB supports the rights of parents to choose the educational environment that best meets the needs of their children. Conference staff indicated support for the measure during the committee hearing.


  Catholic Days at the Capitol Registration Deadlines Approaching  
  As Catholics we commit to live our faith in all areas of our lives; to pursue justice for our neighbors; and to protect and uphold the dignity of all human life. Each year during the Florida legislative session, Catholics from across the state gather in Florida's capital city for an opportunity to fulfill these commitments during Catholic Days at the Capitol.

In a special video invitation, Michael Sheedy, FCCB executive director, invites Catholics in Florida's seven dioceses to Tallahassee on April 4-5, 2017 to learn, advocate, fellowship and pray.

More information, registration forms and contact information for diocesan coordinators are available on the FCCB website at

Pre-Registration is required. Registration deadlines are approaching. Register today.


  Recent News from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops  

March 8, 2017: USCCB Chairmen Call On Congress To Consider Moral Criteria During Debates On Health Care Policy

March 6, 2017: U.S. Bishops Chairman On Migration Says New Executive Order Still Leaves Many Innocent Lives At Risk


March 10, 2017

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E-Update: Week 1

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 2017 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature began Tuesday, March 7 and is scheduled to conclude Friday, May 5.

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