Inside this issue
  Catholic Days Participants Make a Difference at the Capitol  
  On April 4 and 5, Catholics from all seven Florida dioceses gathered in our state's capital city to learn, advocate, fellowship, and pray during Catholic Days at the Capitol. This annual advocacy event provides an opportunity to fulfill the responsibility to participate in political life as a faithful citizen. Catholics from across the state are urged to make the trip to the capitol and make a difference...and that they did! 

Policy issues engaged by participants were: On Wednesday, participants met with lawmakers and/or their aides, toured the capitol and historic capitol buildings, observed the lawmaking process in action, enjoyed a luncheon and awards ceremony, and prayed with and for state leaders at the Red Mass of the Holy Spirit.

Find group photos of diocesan delegations here.
Additional photos of Catholic Days activities are posted to our Facebook page.

Two awards were presented at the Catholic Days luncheon before an audience that included the bishops of Florida, several lawmakers, and 300 Catholic Days participants. Jeff Atwater, Chief Financial Officer for the State of Florida, was honored with the Thomas A. Horkan, Jr. Distinguished Catholic Leader Award given to a Catholic Floridian whose life and work is especially noteworthy for enhancing Florida's laws and way of life through Gospel values. The award is named for and was first presented to Thomas A. Horkan, Jr., founding executive director of the Florida Catholic Conference. CFO Atwater is only the seventh recipient since the award's inception in 1995. Representative Jose Feliz Diaz, District 116, Miami, was presented with the Defensor Dignitatis award for his ongoing, courageous and valiant defense of the dignity of the human person.

Pictured top: Rep. Erin Grall, District 54, Vero Beach (fourth from left), surrounded by Catholic Days participants, including her parents and grandmother
Pictured center, L to R: Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito of Palm Beach, CFO Jeff Atwater, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami
Pictured bottom, L to R: Bishop John G. Noonan of Orlando, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, Bishop Felipe J. Estévez of St. Augustine


  Bishops Meet with Governor Scott  
  The bishops of Florida also stayed busy during their time in Tallahassee. On Wednesday morning, the bishops enjoyed a breakfast meeting with Governor Rick Scott at the Governor's Mansion. The bishops were able to discuss issues of importance to the Church with the governor. Areas addressed included pro-life concerns, parental empowerment in education, immigration, and juvenile justice.  


  Red Mass Celebrated by Florida Bishops  
  Recently referred to as the "crown jewel" of Catholic Days at the Capitol, the Red Mass of the Holy Spirit was celebrated the evening of Wednesay, April 5 at the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More. Braving rain and the threat of severe storms, lay faithful, legislators, Governor and Mrs. Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, members of the Florida bar, and others of good will joined the bishops to pray for divine inspiration and guidance for those working in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

Msgr. James Flaherty, administrator of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, offered the homily. His message focused on leadership and promotion of the common good. "In our country today, we need to see our leaders, people of integrity, lead in the best of times and the worst of times. Leaders must maintain a climate of mutual trust so that we can all work together to build a more just society that is concerned with the common good," proclaimed Msgr. Flaherty.

Read Msgr. Flaherty's homily here.

Two Florida lawmakers, Representative Kathleen Peters, District 69, St. Petersburg, and Representative Danny Burgess, District 38, Zephyrhills, served as lectors during the Mass.



  House Votes to Include Pregnancy Support Services in Florida Statutes  
  While Catholic Days participants looked on, HB 969 (Toledo) was debated and passed (78-38) by the full House on Wednesday. The measure places the Florida Pregnancy Care Network (FPCN) in Florida statutes. 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) waits to be heard by its second committee of reference the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.


  Senate Committee Passes Bill to Create Criminal Justice Reform Task Force  
  On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously passed SB 458 (Brandes). This Catholic Days at the Capitol supported measure, creates a criminal justice reform task force that will conduct a comprehensive review of the state's criminal justice system, court system, and corrections system. The 28-member task force will be composed of members of the Florida House, Senate and executive branch designees, 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.

The companion measure in the House, HB 387 (Peters), has yet to be heard in committee.


  Catholic Health Care Leaders Mobilize for Florida Seniors  
  Leaders of Catholic Health Ministries in Florida visited the capitol on Wednesday to speak with lawmakers about funding mechanisms for long-term care providers. Joining LeadingAge Florida and other nursing home advocates at a press conference, they expressed opposition to proposals that would penalize quality, efficient care to vulnerable seniors. While in town, they were also able to participate in Catholic Days at the Capitol activities.

Pictured, L to R: Steve Bahmer, President and CEO, LeadingAge Florida, Joseph Catania, President and CEO, Catholic Health Services, Kip Corriveau, Director of Mission, Bon Secours St. Petersburg Health System, and Jim Ball, Chief Operating Officer, Catholic Health Services.


  House and Senate Committees Advance Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Expansion Bills  
  On Monday, James Herzog, associate director for education, testified in support of SB 1314 (Grimsley) as the proposal passed its first committee of reference. The bill increases the per-student scholarship amount for high school students from low-income families served under the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program.

"It offers more options for low-income families," Herzog said.  "It gives them hope and opportunity when a high quality nonpublic school education might be just beyond their grasp otherwise." Herzog also spoke in favor of a provision in the bill which allows the Scholarship Funding Organizations (SFOs) approved by the State to administer the program to expand offerings for free professional development and other support services to provider schools.
On Thursday, Herzog indicated the FCCB's support of the similar HB 15 (Sullivan) as the bill passed the House Education Committee, its final committee of reference.


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

April 7, 2017: U.S. Bishops Conference calls for renewed peace efforts in Syria

April 6, 2017: Cardinal Dolan Applauds Administration For Withdrawing Funding To UNFPA's Coercive Abortion/Sterilization Program


April 7, 2017

Follow Us On
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Pinterest Bookmark and Share


E-Update: Week 5

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
E-Update: Week 4
You are currently subscribed to a mailing list of Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. If you wish to unsubscribe, please click here.