Inside this issue
  Problematic Immigration Bills Move in House  
  On Monday, HB 697 (Metz) passed its first committee of reference. The bill requires local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration policy without accompanying funding. As a result, resources for fighting crime will be redirected to immigration enforcement. Ingrid Delgado, associate for respect life/social concerns, testified in opposition to the bill during the committee hearing. A letter from Executive Director Michael Sheedy outlines FCCB's concerns with the measure, noting:
  • The bishops of the United States have long advocated for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level, which should eliminate the need for this bill.
  • State and local agencies will be economically impacted. Tax revenues will decrease and costs will increase.
  • Local enforcement of federal immigration laws does not prevent crime but undermines public safety efforts by eroding community trust in local law enforcement.
  • This bill circumvents the subsidiarity of state and local leaders who are closest to and most affected by the issues and concerns of the community.
The senate companion, SB 786 (Bean), has yet to be heard in committee.

On Tuesday, HB 83 (Eagle) was also passed by its first committee of reference. This bill provides that undocumented immigrants who commit crimes will be sentenced more harshly solely because of their immigration status. Significant concerns with the proposal were expressed both in testimony by Ingrid Delgado and in a letter from Michael Sheedy to the bill sponsor. 

Unlawful presence in the United States, in and of itself, is a civil, not a criminal, violation of our immigration laws. It should not be presumed that these individuals have no regard for our laws, as some are brought as children or overstay visas. Increasing a first degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony because of one's immigration status will prevent some undocumented individuals from adjusting to a legal status should future federal immigration reform provide a pathway. This will have a detrimental impact on the economic and social stability of the individual and his or her family. Questions as to the bill's constitutionality were also raised during the committee meeting.

The companion in the senate, SB 120 (Hutson), has passed two committees of reference.


  Bill to Formalize Pregnancy Support Services in Statute Advances  
  SB 1130 sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) and HB 969 by Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) both passed first committee references this week. The measure will place the Florida Pregnancy Care Network (FPCN) in Florida statute. The program has been operating since 2005, with funding in the state budget provided on an annual basis. FPCN is a network of pregnancy help centers that provide services such as counseling, referrals, material support, training, and pregnancy and childbirth education to pregnant mothers as they prepare to parent or place their babies for adoption. For state fiscal year 2015-2016, the program served 24,184 clients. FCCB has been supportive of this program since its inception.  


  State Attorney Will No Longer Seek Death Sentences  
  State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced Thursday morning that she will not seek the death penalty in any case under her administration. The State Attorney's office handles cases from Orange and Osceola Counties. Florida law gives her the discretion to make the decision.

"I have determined that doing so is not in the best interest of the community or the best interest of justice," said Ayala during a news conference on Thursday, March 16. "I will continue to hold people who do harm to this community accountable for their actions."

On Friday, members from Florida's faith communities gathered at a press conference in Orlando to express their support for Ayala's decision. Deborah Stafford-Shearer, director of the office of advocacy and justice for the Diocese of Orlando, spoke at the event.

The Church holds that if non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means. The alternative sentence of life without parole keeps society safe without lengthy judicial processes that exacerbate the trauma experienced by murder victims' family members; it is also an extremely strong penalty.
Without question, horrible crimes are committed and human life should be protected. However, when the State executes the convicted in our names, it diminishes all citizens. State sanctioned homicide perpetuates a culture of vengeance by teaching that the appropriate response to murder is the taking of another life.
We urge an end to this cycle of violence. May other state attorneys in Florida follow State Attorney Ayala's example and stop seeking the death penalty.


  Help with Avoiding Suspension of Driver License Passes First Committees  
  At a March 14 committee meeting, FCCB staff indicated support for a bill that prohibits the suspension of driver licenses for failure to pay fees related to traffic citations if the person demonstrates the inability to pay. HB 1017 by Rep.Clay Ingram (R-Pensacola) 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 bill and its companion measure, SB 302 (Brandes), passed their first committees of reference unanimously.  


  Learn, Advocate, Fellowship and Pray in Your State Capital City  

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. Join us in Tallahassee on April 4-5, 2017 to learn, advocate, fellowship and pray.

Some dioceses are still accepting registrations. Please check your diocesan registration form for registration deadline. Pre-Registration is required.


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

March 16, 2017: Bishops Welcome Constructive Dialogue In Congress To Protect Creation And Address Climate Change


March 17, 2017

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E-Update: Week 2

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 vote records and 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.

E-Update: Week 1
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