Inside this issue
  FCCB Offers Recommendations on Appropriations Priorities  
  Late last week, the House and Senate passed their respective budgets for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2017. Lawmakers will spend much of the remaining two weeks of the Session hammering out the differences between the two spending plans. 

As legislators prepare for budget negotiations, the FCCB outlined recommendations on several priorities in a letter to House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo:
  • Reject Nursing Home Prospective Payment System Proposal - The House Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee will be considering a revision of a proposal it rejected earlier in the session that simply redistributes funds among nursing homes, with a disproportionate negative impact on higher quality, more efficient homes.
  • Continue Refugee Resettlement - The House budget reflects a possible discontinuation of Florida's Refugee Resettlement program. The current framework administered by the Department of Children and Families is sufficient to warrant its continuation, and the stability afforded in that regard is beneficial to partners like Catholic Charities as national refugee policy is in flux.
  • Support Full Funding of Affordable Housing Trust Fund - Neither chamber appropriates the full $292.4 million available for improving access to this basic need for lower-income Floridians.
  • Establish Criminal Justice Reform Task Force - Rather than continuing to address criminal justice reform measures each year in a piecemeal fashion, FCCB supports the Senate's allocation to fund a task force to undertake a comprehensive analysis of Florida's criminal justice system. A smaller task force is preferable to none. Establishment of the task force was a Catholic Days at the Capitol priority.
  • Mitigate Cuts to Hospital Reimbursement - Medicaid funding contributes significantly to the system delivering care to all Floridians.
  • Increase Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) Scholarship Amounts - The VPK per-child scholarship amount remains lower than it was in 2007.


  House Votes Unanimously to Increase Options in Education  
  On Wednesday, the Florida House unanimously passed legislation that would strengthen two existing school choice programs. HB 15 by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Mount Dora) increases the per-student scholarship amount for high school students from low-income families served by the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program. The measure also expands eligibility for the Gardiner Scholarship Program for children with special needs to include students with visual or hearing-impairment and other children who qualify for individualized education programs.

The Senate is advancing separate bills that strengthen the FTC program (SB 1314) and expand Gardiner scholarship eligibility (SB 902).

Participants in Catholic Days at the Capitol urged support for all three of the measures that advance parental empowerment in education.


  Pregnancy Support Services Not Considered by Senate Subcommittee  
  SB 1130, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville), was scheduled to be heard on Tuesday by its second committee of reference. However, time ran out before the bill was taken up by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. While this endangers its passage this session, the program is funded at current levels in proposed House and Senate budgets for the coming year.

FPCN is a network of pregnancy help centers that provides 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. The program served 24,184 clients in fiscal year 2015-2016. FPCN has been operating since 2005, with funding in the state budget provided on an annual basis.

Companion measure, HB 969 (Toledo), was passed by the full House on April 5.


  Juvenile Justice Measure Advances in House  
  HB 205 (Ahern) was passed by its final committee of reference on Thursday. The proposal would provide for automatic expungement of a juvenile's first-time misdemeanor after the offender completes a diversion program. The bill was amended to also include discretionary use of civil citations for adults. FCCB staff expressed support for the measure during the committee hearing.

Currently, companion measures in the Senate differ significantly from the House bill.


  Good End-of-Life Bill Advances  
  FCCB supports identical measures, SB 474 (Grimsley) and HB 539 (Harrell), which delete the requirement of a spouse or legal representative to obtain a court order to access a medical record after a patient's death. Additionally, the bills allow for safer disposal of controlled substances after a patient's death and align state and federal quality measures for data gathering, analysis and public reporting. Both bills were passed by committees of reference this week and are advancing through the legislative process.  


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

April 13, 2017: Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, President Of The U.S. Conference Of Catholic Bishops, Releases Easter Message Encouraging Joy Over Fear


April 21, 2017

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E-Update: Week 7

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
E-Update: Week 5
E-Update: Week 6
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