February 20-24, 2012
SEVENTH WEEK OF THE 2012 REGULAR LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Each Friday afternoon during the 60-day Session, the Conference highlights legislative action on priority bills and provides a summary of activities of interest at the Capitol. For additional filed bills closely followed by Florida Catholic Conference staff, see the legislative bill report, which is updated on a daily basis.
Highlighted Legislative Action for the Week
On Thursday, the Senate passed a $70.7 billion budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, reducing spending in health care and higher education while increasing public education funding by nearly $1.2 billion. The Senate’s spending plan is $1.5 billion larger than the House’s proposed budget at $69.2 billion. The two chambers will have two weeks to negotiate and approve a final budget before the scheduled last day of the Session.
LIFE AND DEATH
Abortion Clinic Regulations
SB 290 (Flores) was reported favorably by Senate Health Regulation (5-2) and is now in Criminal Justice. This is a comprehensive bill with several critical provisions including a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion can be performed, an infant born alive after an attempted abortion is entitled to the same rights as other infants, and abortion clinics be owned and operated by physicians with specified training. Companion HB 277 (Burgin) was found favorable with a Committee Substitute by the Health and Human Services Committee (12-6), its last reference. Amended to the bill were provisions of HB 839 (Davis), which prohibit an abortion if the postfertilization age of an unborn child is determined to be 20 or more weeks except in cases that could result in death or severe physical impairment of the woman. Conference staff stated support for the bills at both committee stops.
CS/HB 609 (Goodson) was found favorable with a Committee Substitute by the House Judiciary Committee (12-6) and is on the House Calendar, on second reading. The bill strikes down a Miami-Dade ordinance and prohibits local communities from adopting regulations that address employer wage theft, without providing a workable solution at the state level. Sheila Hopkins, Associate Director for Respect Life/Social Concerns, testified during the committee meeting and distributed an op-ed by Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski that speaks to the injustices of wage theft, the burdensome legal remedies, and the need for local solutions. Companion SB 862 (Simmons) is in Senate Judiciary.
Sentencing of Juvenile Offenders
CS/HB 5 (Weinstein) was found favorable by the House Judiciary Committee (15-2) and placed on the House Calendar, on second reading. The bill provides that a juvenile offender less than 18 years of age at the time of commission of a nonhomicide offense and sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole is eligible to apply for a re-sentencing hearing if the offender has been incarcerated for 25 years and meets certain requirements. Companion SB 212 (Oelrich) was found favorable by the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee (6-0). The bill was amended to allow qualified juvenile offenders incarcerated for 15 years to apply for a re-sentencing hearing. Sheila Hopkins testified at the committee meeting. The Conference is monitoring these bills.
CS/CS/HB 177 (Porth) directs the Department of Corrections to develop and administer a reentry program for nonviolent offenders that would allow judges to reduce the sentences of inmates who successfully complete the program and meet certain qualifications. The bill was reported favorably with a Committee Substitute by the House Judiciary Committee (15-3), its last committee of reference. Companion CS/SB 448 (Bogdanoff) is on the agenda for the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations, 02/28/12, 10:45 am. This measure is supported by the Conference.
Restraint of Incarcerated Pregnant Women
CS/HB 367 (Reed) was passed unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee, its last reference. Conference staff stated support for the measure during the meeting. The bill prohibits the use of restraints on a prisoner known to be pregnant during labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery. Companion SB 524 (Joyner) was passed unanimously by the full Senate last month and remains in messages to the House.
SB 80 (Joyner) was passed favorably by Senate Budget (21-0) and placed on the Senate Calendar. In an effort to reduce the trafficking of persons, the bill requires employees of massage parlors to have valid work authorization documents on the premises. The language of this bill was amended onto HB 7049 (Snyder), which was temporarily postponed on third reading in the House. Snyder’s bill strengthens state law by providing additional jurisdiction for the Office of Statewide Prosecution, increasing criminal penalties to first degree felonies for a person who engages in human trafficking and human smuggling, and enhancing penalties for those who traffic minors and persons not legally authorized to work in the United States. Its companion, CS/SB 1880 (Flores), is now in Senate Budget, its last committee of reference. The Conference supports these measures.
Cited as the “Florida Safe Harbor Act”, CS/HB 99 (Fresen), was passed unanimously by the House. The bill authorizes placement of children alleged to be dependent and sexually exploited in short-term safe houses. Companion CS/SB 202 (Flores) is on the agenda for Senate Budget, 02/28/12, 3:45 pm, its last committee of reference. The Conference supports this measure.
Nursing Homes and Related Health Care Facilities
CS/HB 621 (Frishe), termed the “patients before paperwork” bill, was passed unanimously by the House. This measure deletes duplicative nursing home regulations and reduces paperwork for nurses and nursing assistants. SB 482 (Latvala) is now in the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Appropriations. The Conference supports this measure.
2012 School Choice Day at the Capitol
A school choice rally sponsored by the National Coalition for Public School Options was held on Wednesday in the Capitol Courtyard to encourage policymakers to ensure education options are accessible to Florida families. Participants included students in school choice programs from around the state, their parents, and teachers. On the schedule to speak was Governor Rick Scott, Representative Will Weatherford and other school choice champions from the Florida House and Senate.
High School Athletics
CS/HB 1403 (Stargel) was found favorable with a committee substitute by the House Rules and Calendar Committee (13-4) and is now in the Education Committee. The bill contains provisions related to student athletes that are of concern to Catholic schools, including an increase of the threshold on enrollment from 125 or less to 250 or less for the purpose of allowing students at nonpublic schools to participate in sports at public schools. A related but not identical bill, CS/SB 1704 (Wise), creates the Sunshine Independent Athletic Association as part of the governance for private-school athletics. The bill is now in the Budget Subcommittee on Education Pre-K-12 Appropriations. The Conference opposes these measures.
CS/HB 291 (Renuart) requires the adoption of policies relating to the nature and risk of concussion and head injury in youth athletes and was passed unanimously this week by the House. Companion CS/SB 256 (Flores) is on the agenda for Senate Budget, 02/28/12, 3:45 pm. This is its last committee of reference. This measure is being monitored by the Conference.