EIGHTH 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
The House and Senate reached an agreement on allocations for each major section of the budget. This allowed conference committees to begin their work to resolve the $1.5 billion difference between the two chambers’ spending plans. An agreement must be reached between the House and Senate by Tuesday, March 6 in order for the Session to adjourn on time.
The Florida Catholic Conference and leaders of Florida’s Catholic health ministries sent a letter this week to Senator Joe Negron, Senate HHS Appropriations Chair. The correspondence highlighted two key areas of concern in the budget: 1) hospital budget cuts and 2) KidCare eligibility expansion to state worker and legal immigrant families.
The Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida held a press conference at the Capitol to bring attention to services for sick and disabled children jeopardized by proposed funding cuts to children’s hospitals in both the Senate and House budgets. Dana N. Bledsoe, President, Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital was among the speakers at the press conference. Also present at the Capitol were Vicki Baker, RN, Director Emergency Services, Sacred Heart Hospital, and Sacred Heart physicians, Robert F. Patterson, MD and Rex L. Northup, MD.
LIFE AND DEATH
CS/HB 277 (Burgin) was passed by the full House (78-33). Debate was impassioned and lengthy, going late into the night on Wednesday and passing on third reading on Thursday. Several amendments to weaken the bill were filed but failed to be adopted. 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, abortion clinics be owned and operated by physicians with specified training, and restrictions on abortion after viability. SB 290 (Flores) remains in Senate Criminal Justice. The Conference supports the measure.
Sentencing of Juvenile Offenders
CS/HB 5 (Weinstein) was passed by the House (104-12). 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), which has a traveling amendment to allow qualified juvenile offenders incarcerated for 15 years to apply for a re-sentencing hearing, was subreferred to the Budget Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations. The Conference is supporting these bills.
CS/CS/HB 177 (Porth) was passed by the House (112-4) and 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. Companion CS/SB 448 (Bogdanoff) was reported favorably with a Committee Substitute by the Budget Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations (7-0) and is referred to Senate Budget. This measure is supported by the Conference.
HB 7049 (Snyder) was passed by the House (111-0) last Friday afternoon and is in messages to the Senate. The 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. Companion CS/SB 1880 (Flores) passed the Senate Budget Committee (19-0) and is on the Senate Calendar, on second reading. The Conference supports these measures.
CS/SB 202 (Flores) was passed unanimously by the Senate Budget Committee. Cited as the “Florida Safe Harbor Act”, the bill authorizes placement of children alleged to be dependent and sexually exploited in short-term safe houses. Companion CS/HB 99 (Fresen), passed by the House, waits in Senate messages. The Conference supports this measure.
CS/HB 1351 (Glorioso) was sent to the Senate, taken up in place of CS/SB 1662 (Latvala), and passed unanimously. It goes next to the governor for his signature. The measure provides that a minor who is certified homeless shall have specified legal rights including the right to obtain a copy of his or her birth certificate and other identification documents needed for employment, education and other purposes. The measure is supported by the Conference.
CS/SB 402 (Negron) creates the Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns and was passed by Senate Judiciary (19-1). CS/CS/HB 227 (Stargel), which was previously passed by the House, waits in messages to be taken up by the Senate. The measure is supported by the Conference.
After considerable debate, CS/HB 609 (Goodson) was passed in the House (77-38). The bill strikes down a Miami-Dade ordinance that has been successful in recovering lost wages and prohibits local communities from adopting regulations that address employer wage theft. Amendments failed that would have grandfathered the Miami-Dade ordinance and called for an interim project to study the issue and determine a workable statewide solution. Companion SB 862 (Simmons) remains in Senate Judiciary. The Conference opposes the measure and wishes to thank all those who responded to our action alert and urged your representative to vote ‘no’ on HB 609. During debate on the House floor, several members of the House spoke out against the bill.
Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program
CS/HB 859 (Corcoran) was passed by the Education Committee (13-4) and read a second time in the House. As of this report, the bill was temporarily postponed on third reading. This bill increases the funding cap for the FTC Scholarship Program from $175 million to $229 million. With 13,000 students on the waiting list, the bill will allow over 2,000 additional students to participate in the program. The bill also eliminates the eligibility requirement that students in grades 2-5 have attended public school the prior year. A similar bill, CS/SB 962 (Benacquisto), increases the funding cap from $175 million to $250 million. Having been withdrawn from the Budget Committee, this bill is on the Senate Calendar, on second reading. The Conference supports these measures.
High School Athletics
After being reported favorably this week by the Education Committee (12-6), CS/HB 1403 (Stargel) was taken up by the House, amended, and passed (78-34). The amended bill, now in messages to the Senate, opens the door to an independent athletic association which may not have to follow National Federation of State High School Associations’ guidelines. Other provisions of the bill related to student athlete eligibility and recruitment would make for an “unlevel playing field” and undermine both the Florida High School Athletic Association and participating high 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 Senate bill was withdrawn from its two remaining committees of reference and placed on the Senate calendar on second reading. The Conference opposes these measures.
As part of a Memorial urging Congress to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the House approved an amendment sponsored by Representative Steve Precourt that rejects the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring religious organizations to violate their deeply held beliefs. The Administration’s mandate forces nearly all private health plans, including those offered by religious organizations, to include coverage for abortion inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception. After the amendment was adopted, the Memorial, CS/HB 1281 (Brodeur), was passed (76-34).