NINTH 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 bills closely followed by Florida Catholic Conference staff, see the legislative bill report, which is updated on a daily basis.
The Regular Session of the Florida Legislature came to a close (sine die) at 12:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 10. The motion to adjourn sine die, Latin for without day, is the last action of a session of the legislature. The legislature will convene in a Reapportionment Special Session beginning on Wednesday, March 14.
A concluding session summary that identifies the final status of bills closely followed by the Conference will be made available to the FCC Advocacy Network early next week.
Highlighted Legislative Action for the Week
During the last few days of the session, farewell speeches were given by several members who reached their term limit. This included the Senate President and House Speaker as their two-year term as leaders of their respective chambers came to an end.
Senator Don Gaetz is designated the incoming Senate President. House Speaker-Designate is Rep. Will Weatherford.
The House and Senate chambers approved a $70 billion state budget for fiscal year 2012-2013. The general appropriations bill passed the House (80-37) and Senate (32-8). The budget will now go to the governor who has line item veto authority. Passing the budget is the only required duty of the legislature during the session.
Pregnancy Support Services – A $2 million allocation for crisis pregnancy centers was included in the final budget. Funding for the program has been in the budget since 2006 and supports a network of crisis pregnancy centers that provide counseling, medically-accurate information and resources for pregnant women.
KidCare Expansion – We are pleased that provisions of SB 510 (Rich) to expand KidCare coverage to children of lower-income state workers has been included in a budget conforming bill, which becomes law. Legal immigrant children, whom the Conference sought to incorporate, are not included at this time.
Medicaid Rate Cuts – The budget contains a 5.6 percent rate cut in Medicaid reimbursement for hospitals and an overall projected loss in Medicaid payments of $323.6 million to Florida Hospitals. Nursing Homes received a 1.25 percent reduction. Cuts to the Florida Medicaid program that serves low-income families, children, the elderly and disabled reduce access to care for all Floridians. There is concern for patients as well as the broader community with jobs, critical services and capital projects in jeopardy of being downsized or eliminated.
LIFE AND DEATH
A procedural vote was taken in the Senate chamber on whether to withdraw SB 290 (Flores) from committee and bring it to the floor. A 23-16 vote in favor of hearing the bill fell short of the required two-thirds majority, killing the bill for this legislative session. Bill provisions included requiring care of an infant born alive as the result of an attempted abortion, providing women information 24 hours prior to an abortion, and requiring any abortion clinics licensed after July 2012 to be owned and operated by physicians with specified training. House companion HB 277 (Burgin) passed the House last week (78-33). We thank our FCC Advocacy Network members who acted to urge Senate leaders to withdraw SB 290 (Flores) from committee and hear it on the floor.
Restraint of Incarcerated Pregnant Women
The House took up SB 524 (Joyner) in place of CS/HB 367 (Reed), amended the Senate bill and passed it (114-1). The Senate concurred with the amendment and passed the final bill (40-0). The bill prohibits the use of restraints on a pregnant inmate during labor, delivery and postpartum recovery unless it is determined that the prisoner presents an extraordinary risk. The Conference supported the measure, and it goes next to the governor.
CS/CS/HB 177 (Porth) was taken up by the Senate in place of CS/SB 448 (Bogdanoff) and passed (40-0). The bill 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. This measure was supported by the Conference. It goes next to the governor.
HB 7049 (Snyder) was substituted in the Senate for CS/SB 1880 (Flores) and passed (38-0). The bill strengthens state law by providing additional jurisdiction for the Office of Statewide Prosecution, increasing criminal penalties for persons who engage 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. The Conference supported this measure, which will go to the governor.
SB 80 (Joyner) passed the Senate (39-0). 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 previously amended to HB 7049 (Snyder).
CS/HB 99 (Fresen) was substituted in the Senate for CS/SB 202 (Flores), passed (39-0), and will go to the governor. The bill authorizes placement of juveniles alleged to be sexually exploited in short-term safe houses. The Conference supported this measure.
CS/CS/HB 227 (Stargel), which creates the Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns, was substituted in the Senate for CS/SB 402 (Negron) and passed (39-0). The measure was supported by the Conference and goes next to the governor.
Individuals with Disabilities / Service Animals
SB 1382 (Bennett) was amended and passed in the Senate (39-0). The bill was then sent to the House where it died in messages. Companion CS/HB 1077 (Kriseman) died on the House calendar on second reading. The bill would have provided individuals with a disability who are accompanied by a service animal certain rights with regard to public or housing accommodations. The Conference supported this measure.
Florida Kidcare Program
CS/SB 510 (Rich) passed the Senate (37-0) and removes the prohibition on children of state employees from participating in the Kidcare program if they are otherwise eligible. House companion HB 849 (Schwartz) was never heard in committee; however, provisions of the measure were included in a budget conforming bill that passed both chambers. The Conference supported this measure.
Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program
CS/HB 859 (Corcoran) was passed this week in the House (92-24) and sent to the Senate where it was substituted for CS/SB 962 (Benacquisto). Prior to the bill passing the Senate (32-8), an amendment that would have prohibited the state from imposing requirements on the curriculum of a private school regardless of whether it chooses to administer the FCAT failed to be adopted. This bill increases the funding cap for the FTC Scholarship Program from $175 million to $229 million. The bill also eliminates the eligibility requirement that students in grades 2-5 have attended public school the prior year. The Conference supported this measure, and it goes next to the governor.
High School Athletics
Despite an effort by the Conference and our FCC Advocacy Network to urge defeat, CS/HB 1403 (Stargel) was taken up by the Senate in place of CS/SB 1704 (Wise) and narrowly passed (21-18). This measure, which will now go to the governor, 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. We thank all those who contacted their senator to ask that he or she oppose this measure.
CS/HB 291 (Renuart), which requires the adoption of policies relating to concussion and head injury in youth athletes, was substituted by the Senate for CS/SB 256 (Flores) and passed (39-0). This measure was monitored by the Conference and will go next to the governor.