HB 7045 expands the state's scholarship programs by raising the income eligibility threshold to 375% of the federal poverty level ($99K/year for a family of 4) and increasing the scholarship amounts for the Family Empowerment Scholarship and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. It also eliminates the need for scholarship recipients to attend public school the year prior to participation from all scholarship programs that retained the requirement. Earlier this year, Catholic Days at the Capitol participants urged lawmakers to support this legislation that advances parental choice in education.
On April 30, the Florida legislature approved a state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2021. The budget includes a new $2 million recurring appropriation for the Department of Health to contract with family planning providers, such as Planned Parenthood, in promoting and providing Hormonal Long-acting Reversible Contraception (HLARC). The manufacturers of hormonal intrauterine devices recognize that many women continue to ovulate while using the device; therefore, conception can still occur. However, HLARCs alter the uterine lining and create an inhospitable womb for implantation of the newly-conceived life. This concern is raised in a letter from FCCB Executive Director Michael Sheedy to Governor DeSantis.
Governor DeSantis has line-item veto authority over the budget. Please urge the governor to veto budget line item 500, which allocates $2 million in public tax dollars to promote and provide abortifacients.
On May 17-19, the Florida legislature gathered in a special session to give approval to a 30-year gaming compact recently negotiated by Governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The deal would lead to the state receiving $2.5 billion over the first five years. The tribe would operate sports betting and would receive other benefits, including being able to offer craps and roulette at its casinos. The House voted 97-17 to pass the bill; the Senate voted 38-1 to approve it. The U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Indian Gaming must also sign off on the deal before it goes into effect. The compact is also expected to face a legal challenge from opponents that maintain the sports betting authorization violates a 2018 constitutional amendment, which required statewide voter approval of future expansions of gambling.
At various points since 1978, and most recently in 2018, the bishops of Florida have publicly outlined concerns about expansions of casino gambling. There is historical and anecdotal evidence that casino gambling is accompanied by vice and social evils. The anticipated increase in state revenue is likely attractive to many legislators. However, higher overall social costs can be expected in the coming decades if expansion of gambling is enacted. In a statement released earlier this week, the FCCB urged the legislature to put a pause on the proposed expansion of casino and internet-based gambling.
This May, during National Foster Care Month, please consider providing a loving home for a child who has been separated from his or her parents. Over 20,000 children in Florida have been removed from their parents or guardians; however, only 5,000 families are certified to meet their needs.
Two recent episodes of the FCCB's podcast, Catholics Across the Aisle, focused on the great need for foster parents in Florida. In the first episode, FCCB Executive Director Michael Sheedy, sits down with Shevaun Harris, Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families, and Erik Dellenback, Governor's Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council, to talk about how to become a foster parent in Florida and what you can expect when fostering a child. In the second episode, Sheedy speaks with Monica Farias of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami about the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program and how to help these children in need. Both episodes are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher.
If you are interested in learning more about foster parenting children in Florida who do not have relatives who are able to care for them, please call 1-83-FOSTERFL or visit MyFloridaMyFamily.com.
If you are interested in immigrant and refugee foster care, please reach out to one of the two U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' foster care program partners in Florida:
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, Inc. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or (305) 883-3383 or email@example.com
Bethany Christian Services, Central Florida Contact: (407) 877-4006
The nurturing environment you provide can help vulnerable children heal and thrive.
On May 17, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear oral arguments in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. Shortly after a 2018 Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy was signed into law, a federal judge blocked it from taking effect when the state's only abortion clinic filed suit. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld the block on the law saying its pre-viability restriction on elective abortions was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court will now take up the case during its next term that opens in October. A decision by the high court is expected by June 2022 and could, for the first time since 1973, greatly diminish the ruling in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion.