Inside this issue
  Inclusion of Pregnancy Support Services in Statute to be Considered by Full House  
  HB 969 by Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) passed its final committee of reference on Thursday and is scheduled to be heard by the full House on Tuesday, April 4. The measure places 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. Establishing the program in statute ensures more favorable consideration under the current budget process.

SB 1130 sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) has passed its first committee of reference and is now in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.


  Advocates for Ending the Use of the Death Penalty Rally at Capitol  
  On Thursday, Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Equal Justice USA, and several other advocacy organizations sponsored a rally at the capitol. Participants urged an end to the use of the death penalty as well as voiced support for State Attorney Aramis Ayala's decision within Florida law to not seek the death penalty in any case under her jurisdiction. Ayala's office handles cases from Orange and Osceola Counties.

Ingrid Delgado, associate for social concerns/respect life, spoke at the rally and expressed the FCCB's opposition to the death penalty. State-sanctioned killing offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life. However, we cannot overcome what Saint Pope John Paul II called a "culture of death" and build a "culture of life" by killing those who have been convicted of killing others.

The alternative sentence of life without the possibility of parole protects society without taking additional lives. It is time to abandon the death penalty-not just because of what it does to those who are executed, but because of how it diminishes all of us.


  FCCB Opposed Long Term Care Funding Mechanism Advances  
  The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Health and Human Services had its final discussion on a new funding mechanism for long-term care providers before advancing it to the full Appropriations Committee.
Coming into the session, the legislature received a proposal to establish a new prospective payment system from the Agency for Health Care Administration by Navigant. It was rejected because it penalized high quality, efficient nursing homes while benefiting less efficient, lower quality homes without ensuring additional funds would be used for better resident care.
A group representing a large portion of the nursing homes industry has put forth a second proposal, which was discussed in the committee. It does not address the flaws in the earlier plan that was rejected and in ways is worse:
  • it reduces quality thresholds;
  • it shifts funds from care of residents to property; and
  • it costs Florida taxpayers more (at least $57M for each of the next 3 years).
The current proposal is not oriented to recognizing and meeting the needs of persons receiving care in these facilities.

Prior to advancing the proposal, Senator Anitere Flores, chair of the subcommittee, indicated that additional work and revisions will be considered.


  Catholic School Parents Testify For Expanded Educational Options  
  On Tuesday, two mothers of Catholic school students spoke before the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee during public comments regarding HB 15 by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Eustis). The measure would allow higher per-child scholarships to students from low-income families seeking to attend nonpublic high schools in the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program.

Tiffani Hinds and Jeannie Boggs each spoke from first-hand experiences with Florida school choice programs about the value of state scholarship programs in helping families meet the unique academic needs of their schoolchildren.

Through the help of FTC scholarships, the Hinds family sends three of their children to St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Panama City. Another child attends a special autism school in the state's McKay Scholarship Program. "One of the things that is most important to us is that our kids are getting what they need and their needs are being met," Hinds said. "We love the schools that they are in. The kids love learning, they love going to school whereas at one point in time, they were crying getting on the school bus."

The Boggs family has a son in the Gardiner Scholarship Program attending Trinity Catholic School in Tallahassee. The program for children with unique abilities has encouraged active collaboration and innovation between her family and the school. "This scholarship doesn't just support the student, but the families, teachers and allows for inclusive, appropriate education for the individual child," Boggs said.

HB 15 passed the subcommittee on a 12-3 vote with some bipartisan support. Prior to being amended by the subcommittee, the bill also addressed expansion of the McKay and Gardiner scholarships. The sponsor pledged to work to restore these scholarship expansion provisions to her bill at its next committee stop.

The similar SB 1314 by Senator Denise Grimsley (R-Lake Placid) is on the Senate Education Committee's agenda for Monday, April 3.

Pictured above left: Tiffani Hinds; above right: Jeannie Boggs


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

March 31, 2017: Cardinal Dolan Welcomes Congressional Action To Nullify Title X Rule

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities, praised both chambers of the U.S. Congress for taking action to nullify a bad policy imposed by the Obama Administration. Congress' joint resolution of disapproval (H.J. Res 43 / S. Res. 13) was passed by the House in mid-February, and by the Senate on March 30, 2017. It overrides a rule change made late in the Obama Administration that prevented states from redirecting Title X family planning funding away from abortion providers like Planned Parenthood to community health centers that provide comprehensive primary and preventive health care. The rule change went into effect on January 18, 2017.

March 31, 2017: U.S. Bishop Chairmen Urge Congress Toward Bipartisan Reform on Key Health Care Issues

After the U.S. House of Representatives withdrew the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on March 24 2017, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida urged members of Congress to "seize this moment to create a new spirit of bipartisanship" and make necessary reforms on access, affordability, life and conscience.

March 29, 2017: U.S. Bishops Chairman Opposes Environmental Executive Order

President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Order on March 28, 2017 that rescinds and weakens numerous environmental protections, and effectively dismantles the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the national program designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32% in relation to 2015 levels by the year 2030. Fossil fuel-fired power plants are the largest pollution emitting sector, making up just under one-third of U.S. total greenhouse gas emissions.


March 31, 2017

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E-Update: Week 4

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
E-Update: Week 3
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