Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops Updates

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April 15 – April 19, 2013SEVENTH WEEK OF THE 2013 REGULAR LEGISLATIVE SESSION Each Friday afternoon 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 additional legislative action on bills closely monitored by the Conference, see the legislative bill report, which is updated on a daily basis.

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April 15 – April 19, 2013
SEVENTH WEEK OF THE 2013 REGULAR LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Each Friday afternoon 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 additional legislative action on bills closely monitored by the Conference, see the legislative bill report, which is updated on a daily basis.

Highlighted Activity for the Week
LIFE AND DEATH
Pro-life Measures Pass in House Chamber

Having passed all committees of reference, CS/CS/CS/HB 1129 (Pigman) was passed on Wednesday (119-0) by the full House. The bill provides that an infant born alive during an attempted abortion is required to be transported to the nearest emergency medical facility for immediate treatment. The measure also requires abortion providers to report infants born alive to state health officials. On Monday, CS/CS/SB 1636 (Flores) was approved unanimously by Senate Judiciary and is on the agenda for its last committee of reference, Appropriations, Tuesday, April 23. This week, Governor Rick Scott issued a statement praising the House for passage of legislation to protect the lives of infants. “I look forward to signing this bill when it reaches my desk,” said Governor Scott.

On Thursday, CS/HB 845 (Van Zant), known as the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, was passed by the House (71-44). The bill protects unborn children from prenatal discrimination by prohibiting sex-selection or race-selection abortions. Abortion providers are required to sign an affidavit stating they have no knowledge the pregnancy is being terminated based on the child’s sex or race and is subject to a fine of up to $10,000 for failing to report known violations. Companion SB 1072 (Evers) has not been heard by any of its committee references, making passage of this measure by the Senate unlikely.

HB 759 (Ahern) was also passed by the House (74-43) on Thursday. The bill provides that a person who engages in criminal conduct that causes the death of or bodily injury to an unborn child shall be charged with an offense separate from any charges for offenses against the mother. An amendment that would have required knowledge or intent by the perpetrator of the offense was defeated on a voice vote. Companion SB 876 (Stargel) is in Senate Judiciary.

Measure to Speed Up Death Penalty Process Continues to Move in House and Senate
CS/CS/HB 7083 (Criminal Justice Subcommittee) was passed by the House Judiciary Committee (14-4) on Tuesday, followed by passage of CS/CS/SB 1750 (Negron) by Senate Appropriations (12-5) on Thursday. These bills aim to reduce delays in carrying out the death penalty by limiting the post-conviction appeals process. The FCCB is monitoring these proposals closely and letters have been sent to both Senator Joe Negron and Representative Matt Gaetz urging that consideration of the measures be delayed until after a recent Supreme Court appointed Capital Post-Conviction Proceedings Subcommittee has completed its recommendations. The FCCB is concerned that an accelerated appeals process will result in the wrongful killing of an innocent person. Both bills are now available to be heard in their respective chamber.

SOCIAL CONCERNS

Despite Improvements to Bill, Wage Theft Measure Leaves Workers Worse Off
CS/CS/CS/HB 1125 (Goodson), passed by House Judiciary on Tuesday (12-6), pre-empts wage theft laws to the state. The bill requires that claims be filed in the county court system while prohibiting recovery of attorney fees, making collection of unpaid or underpaid wages a burdensome process for the employee, especially low-wage earners. An exemption is provided for existing wage theft ordinances in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Companion CS/SB 1216 (Bradley) is in Senate Judiciary.

A press conference led by Rep. José Javier Rodríguez called attention to concerns with the measure. Michael Sheedy, FCCB director of public policy, stated that although these bills have improved as they have worked through the legislative process, they still leave workers incrementally worse off than under current law.

Amendment to Juvenile Sentencing Fails; Bill Advances
On Tuesday, Sheila Hopkins, FCCB director of social concerns/respect life, provided testimony to the House Judiciary Committee in support of an amendment by Rep. Kionne McGhee that would have set the minimum required sentence for juvenile offenders in homicide cases at 30 years. The amendment failed (5-12) and the bill, CS/HB 7137 (Criminal Justice Subcommittee), passed (13-3). The FCCB continues to oppose this measure, which requires juveniles convicted of a nonhomicide offense to serve a prison term of up to 50 years and a juvenile convicted of a capital offense to be sentenced to at least 50 years if the judge determines that a life sentence is not appropriate. The bill does not provide for a meaningful review of the juvenile’s sentence during the term of imprisonment as required by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama. Judges can still sentence juveniles to life in prison, but they must first take into account several factors, including the age and maturity level of the defendant, the extent of the defendant’s participation in the offense and the possibility of rehabilitating the defendant. Companion CS/SB 1350 (Bradley) is on the agenda for Senate Appropriations, Tuesday, April 23.

Prohibition on Offensive Materials on School Grounds Receives Final Passage
Passing the House (115-3) earlier this month, CS/CS/HB 113 (Diaz, M.) was taken up by the Senate in place of CS/CS/SB 86 (Flores) and passed (36-0). The bill prohibits an adult from distributing pornography or materials harmful to minors on school grounds. This measure, supported by the FCCB, will be sent the governor for his signature.

HEALTH CARE

Legislature Urged to Expand Health Care Coverage to the Uninsured
At a press conference on Monday, Rep. Mia Jones, minority leader pro tempore, was joined by fellow state legislators, Congresswoman Corrine Brown, clergy from around the state and uninsured individuals to urge the use of federal funds available through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) for the expansion of Medicaid. Michael Sheedy, FCCB director of public policy, led those present in prayer, asking God to inspire our elected officials to find ways to promote better health for the vulnerable among us, especially those who lack ready access to necessary health services.

Alternatives to Medicaid Expansion Continue to Move in House and Senate
On Monday, the House Select Committee on PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) chaired by Rep. Richard Corcoran submitted on an 11-6 vote HB 7169 containing provisions that provide health care subsidies of $2,000 to low-income parents. It aims to cover 115,000 persons without utilizing federal funds. The House Appropriations Committee passed CS/HB 7169 (Select Committee on PPACA) on Friday (16-8).

On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services passed competing proposals to offer health care coverage to additional low-income, uninsured individuals. CS/SB 1816 (Appropriations), which relies on direct federal money to provide assistance to about 1 million people for the purchase of health insurance, was amended to blend key provisions of the House bill and passed unanimously. Beneficiaries could select either the Healthy Florida Program envisioned by the Senate or the Florida Health Choices plan of the House. The other Senate plan, CS/SB 1844 (Health Policy), rejects federal money and creates a subsidy for certain low-income individuals up to 100% of the federal poverty level to help pay for health care services. It passed the subcommittee (6-4) along party lines. Both bills are on the agenda for Senate Appropriations, Tuesday, April 23.

Long Term Care Advocates Oppose Certificate of Need Exemption
FCCB staff joined Senator Rene Garcia and long term care advocates at a news conference on Monday to oppose a measure that allows a nursing home to be built in a special deed-restricted community, bypassing the current moratorium on new nursing home beds. The legislature created a Certificate of Need moratorium on nursing homes in 2001 as a way to control Medicaid costs, encourage home and community-based services and ensure the optimum use of nursing home care. This week, CS/CS/SB 1482 (Hays) passed Senate Judiciary (6-3), and CS/CS/HB 1159 (O’Toole) passed the House Health and Human Services Committee (12-7).

EDUCATION
Bill to Streamline Agency Oversight for VPK and School Readiness Passes Committee
CS/HB 7165 (Education) passed the House Appropriations Committee (25-0). The bill streamlines the State agency administrative roles for the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education and School Readiness Programs from three down to two. The newly formed Office of Early Learning would administer the two programs at the state level as part of the Florida Department of Education. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) would maintain its role in overseeing some aspects of VPK and School Readiness such as requirements for training and credentialing of personnel. Companion CS/CS/SB 1722 (Legg) was passed by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education (12-0).

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
Prohibition on Application of Foreign Law Passes House
CS/HB 351 (Metz)
passed the House (79-39) on Thursday. This bill, monitored by the FCCB, prohibits courts from considering certain provisions of foreign laws. A provision states that the measure does not prohibit religious organizations from adjudicating ecclesiastical matters. CS/CS/SB 58 (Hays) has a final committee of reference, Rules.

Additional Bills Seeing Action This Week
For descriptions of these bills, please see the Legislative Report.

SB 1036 (Children, Families, and Elder Affairs) – Independent Living – Favorable with CS by Appropriations (18-0)
CS/CS/HB 1315 (Perry) – Independent Living – Favorable with CS by Health & Human Services (13-0) 
CS/SB 402 (Joyner) – Homelessness Prevention – Favorable by Appropriations (14-0) 
CS/HB 631 (Fullwood) – Transactions in Fresh Produce Markets – Favorable by Health & Human Services (13-0)
CS/CS/CS/HB 7005 (Criminal Justice Subcommittee) – Massage Establishments – House Passed (117-0)
CS/CS/HB 159 (Edwards) – Sentencing for Controlled Substance Violations – Favorable by Judiciary (16-1)

What to Look for Next Week
The following bills are on the schedule for next week. For descriptions of these bills, please see the Legislative Report.

SB 1164 (Stargel) – High School Athletics – Education, 04/22/13, 12:30 pm
CS/SB 370 (Sachs) – Disposition of Human Remains – Appropriations, 04/23/13, 9:00 am
CS/CS/CS/SB 500 (Clemens) – Massage Practice – Appropriations, 04/23/13, 9:00 am
CS/CS/SB 1482 (Hays) – Skilled Nursing Facilities – Appropriations, 04/23/13, 9:00 am
CS/CS/SB 1636 (Flores) – Infants Born Alive – Appropriations, 04/23/13, 9:00 am
CS/SB 1816 (Appropriations)– Health Care Actions – Appropriations, 04/23/13, 9:00 am
CS/SB 1844 (Health Policy) – Health Choice Plus Program – Appropriations, 04/23/13, 9:00 am
CS/SB 1350 (Bradley) – Juvenile Criminal Penalties – Appropriations, 04/23/13, 9:00 am
CS/CS/SB 1722 (Legg) – Early Education – Appropriations, 04/23/13, 9:00 am
CS/SB 102 (Detert) – Charitable Contributions – Placed on Senate Special Order Calendar, 04/24/13

Prior Summaries
Session Summary: Week 1
Session Summary: Week 2
Session Summary: Week 3
Session Summary: Week 4
Session Summary: Week 5
Session Summary: Week 6