Inside this issue
  FCCB Hosts Campus Ministry Liaison Day at the Capitol  
  Earlier this year, the FCCB launched a new program to inform and engage college students throughout the state on public policy issues of concern to the bishops of Florida. The Campus Ministry Liaison Program provides students who are active in their campus Catholic ministries the opportunity to reflect and act on the social and moral teachings of the Church and learn how these teachings apply to the laws of our state and nation. 

Student liaisons are encouraged to provide public policy updates to their campus ministry peers and to encourage their peers to participate in opportunities to take actions on specific issues. Liaisons stay informed on FCCB public policy priorities and activities through electronic communications, regular conference calls, and an annual Catholic Campus Ministry "Day at the Capitol." 

On March 20 and 23, FCCB hosted its first class of campus ministry liaisons for a one day program. In the morning, liaisons received presentations on FCCB's mission and priorities, Catholic Social Teaching and is application to both charity and social justice, and the legislative process. Liaisons spent the afternoon at the capitol and were able to see lawmaking in action. Time was also spent visiting with legislators and staff, including Representatives Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills) and Thad Altman (R-Indialantic) and Katie Betta, Deputy Chief of Staff for Senate President Joe Negron (R-Palm City). Betta is a Florida State University Catholic Student Union alumna.

"Through the program FCCB will increase its ability to reach and inspire a younger generation, as well as benefit from their energy and ideas," said Michele Taylor, FCCB associate director for communications. "It is our hope that over time, as additional liaisons are assigned and students graduate, the program will yield greater interest and increased involvement in political life by our Catholic faithful."

Pictured above left: L to R - Katie Betta with student liaisons Emily Vitale (Stetson University), Brianna Doyle (Florida State University), and Jared Iserman (University of West Florida)

Pictured above right: Rep. Thad Altman with liaison Natalie Kendziorski (University of South Florida)


  Bill Requiring Local Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws Advances in House  
  On Tuesday, HB 697 (Metz) passed its second committee of reference, with one committee still remaining before it can be heard by the full House. The bill requires local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration policy without accompanying funding. As a result, resources for preventing crime and protecting the public will be redirected to immigration enforcement. FCCB staff expressed 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.


  Proposal Seeks to Create Florida Criminal Justice Reform Task Force  
  The FCCB expressed its support in committee this week for a bill creating a criminal justice task force. The newly created group will be charged with conducting a comprehensive review of the state's criminal justice, court and corrections systems. The 28-member task force will be composed of members of the Florida House, Senate and executive branch, judges, county commissioners, a victim's advocate, a representative of the Florida State University Project on Accountable Justice, two representatives of the faith community, members of criminal defense and law enforcement associations, and a formerly incarcerated individual who has demonstrated exceptional commitment to rehabilitation and community improvement.

SB 458 (Brandes) unanimously passed its first two committees of reference and is now in Appropriations. HB 387 (Peters) has yet to be heard in committee.


  Constitution Revision Commission Holds Organization Meeting  
  The Constitution Revision Commission, which convenes every 20 years to suggest changes to the Florida Constitution, held its first meeting on Monday, March 20. Any proposed constitutional amendments recommended by the commission will go on the ballot for the November 2018 elections and would require approval from 60 percent of voters to pass. Of the 37 members on the commission, Governor Rick Scott appointed 15 members and named Carlos Beruff, a businessman and former candidate for U.S. Senate, the chairman. Both Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran had nine appointees each. Chief Justice Jorge Labarga named three members. Attorney General Pam Bondi is an automatic member of the panel.

The FCCB looks for the commission to address troublesome sections of Florida's Constitution, including: our state's privacy clause (Article 1, Section 23) that has been interpreted by the courts to give a greater right to abortion than the U.S. Constitution; and Article I, Section 3, know as the Blaine Amendment, which restricts any religious organization from receiving direct or indirect state financial aid.

The commission has scheduled four public hearings so far to seek citizens' input. The meetings will be held at different locations around the state between late March and mid-April. More information is available on the commission's official website


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

March 22, 2017: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Administrative Committee has issued a pastoral reflection in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or fear in their native lands. 

In the statement, the bishops encourage each of us to do what we can to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States. "It is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity," said the bishops.

Full text of the Bishops' Administrative Committee statement.

March 20, 2017: In a letter sent to the U.S. House of Representatives, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, notes that, while the recently introduced American Health Care Act (AHCA) commendably contains key provisions in defense of life, the proposed legislation also creates "grave challenges for poor and vulnerable people that must be addressed" by Congress before passage.

The full text of the letter from Bishop Dewane.


March 24, 2017

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E-Update: Week 3

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
E-Update: Week 2
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