Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops Updates

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 8 – April 12, 2013
SIXTH 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
BUDGET
On Wednesday, the Senate passed (40-0) its proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013. With revenue better than in recent years, the $74 billion plan includes a three percent across the board pay raise for state employees, who have not received an increase in wages for six years. Under education, an increase of $372 per student brings per-student funding to $6,759. An increase in funding for KidCare allows for additional enrollment in the program. The budget also includes $2.9 billion in reserves.

The House passed its $74 billion spending plan (99-17) on Friday. The House version of the budget includes a $1000 across the board salary increase for state employees, with a $400, performance-based bonus. An amendment that would have moved $2 million in support for crisis pregnancy centers to family planning was debated at length, ultimately failing on a voice vote.

Legislators will begin to address the differences between the two chambers’ proposals. Passing a budget is the only duty required of the Legislature during the annual Session.

LIFE AND DEATH

Care for Infants Born Alive Gets First Hearing in Senate
CS/SB 1636 (Flores)
, which provides that an infant born alive during an attempted abortion is entitled to the same medical care as any child born alive in the course of child birth, was passed by Senate Health Policy (9-0). The measure defines a child “born alive” as a human infant at any stage of development who, after complete expulsion or extraction from the mother, breathes or has a beating heart, or voluntary movement of muscles. During the meeting, FCCB staff expressed support for the bill. CS/SB 1636 (Flores) is scheduled to be heard by its next committee of reference, Judiciary, on Monday, April 15. Companion CS/CS/CS/HB 1129 (Pigman) has been placed on the House Calendar, on second reading.

SOCIAL CONCERNS
Senate Committee Passes Unborn Victims of Violence Bill 
On Monday, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee passed SB 876 (Stargel) (4-2). This measure, supported by the FCCB, 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. Prior knowledge of the pregnancy is not required for the perpetrator to be charged. Companion HB 759 (Ahern) has been placed on the House Calendar, on second reading.

Juvenile Sentencing Bills Pass Committees in Both House and Senate
CS/SB 1350 (Bradley)
was passed Monday by Senate Criminal Justice (4-2), followed by passage of the bill on Thursday by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice (8-5). During the subcommittee meeting, Senator Arthenia Joyner offered a late filed amendment that would allow for review of the juvenile’s sentence after 15 years for nonhomicide cases and 25 years in capital cases but withdrew the amendment since the chairman, who is the bill sponsor, considered it an unfriendly amendment. The House companion, HB 7137 (Criminal Justice Subcommittee), also moved forward this week, passing the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee (8-5) Tuesday. Sheila Hopkins provided testimony in opposition to the bills at all three meetings urging the amendment to be added to the bill. These measures require 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 bills do 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. The FCCB wishes to thank all those who responded to an action alert and urged members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee to vote “no” on the bill in its current form.

For more information, watch a brief video about these bills and the position of the FCCB.

Proposals Protecting Victims of Human Trafficking Approved by Committees
SB 974 (Sobel)
provides that a victim of human trafficking may refuse to disclose confidential communications with a counselor and also eliminates criminal liability for prostitution if the person to be charged is a victim of human trafficking. The bill was unanimously passed at Monday’s meeting of the Criminal Justice Committee, during which FCCB staff expressed support for the measure. Companion HB 967 (Stafford) has yet to be heard by its first committee of reference, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

Also, this week, both CS/CS/SB 500 (Clemens) and companion CS/CS/HB 7005 (Criminal Justice Subcommittee) unanimously passed committees of reference, Senate Health Policy and House Judiciary, respectively. The measure, supported by the FCCB, prohibits operation of massage parlors between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m., with exceptions for services provided at certain locations, such as health-care facilities and hotels, or under a medical prescription and prohibits the location to be used as a principal residence. Although the majority of massage establishments are operated by law-abiding citizens, a small number of establishments are operated by persons who use them as a place to engage in illegal activities such as human trafficking and prostitution.

Bill Provides Assistance with Transition to Independence from Foster Care 
After emotional testimony from several young adults who were previously in the foster care program and required to support themselves at the age of 18, CS/CS/HB 1315 (Perry) was passed (11-1) by the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee. The bill allows foster children to remain in the program up to the age of 21 and provides for a transition plan to self-sufficiency. Currently, there are 5000 children from 13 to 17 years old in the foster care system. Companion SB 1036 (Children, Families, and Elder Affairs) was passed unanimously by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services on Thursday.

HEALTH CARE
House Proposes Alternative to Medicaid Expansion
On Thursday, House leaders released an alternative to the expansion of Medicaid as envisioned by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The plan would provide health-care subsidies of $2,000 to certain low-income parents and people with disabilities and does not utilize federal money available under PPACA. Enrollees would contribute $25 a month to the proposed program and could use funds to buy coverage and health services. Similar to one of two Senate alternatives offered, the House plan is aimed at households with incomes at or below 100% of the federal poverty level ($23,550 for a family of four) and utilizes Florida Health Choices, a virtual state health care marketplace, to administer the program.

Action Urged by Bill Sponsors on Expansion of KidCare to Legal Immigrant Children
House and Senate sponsors of a measure to allow low-income, legal immigrant children to participate in the KidCare program held a press conference to urge action on their bills. SB 704 (Garcia) and HB 4023 (Diaz, J.), advocated last month by Catholic Days at the Capitol participants, have stalled in both chambers. Sheila Hopkins, director of social concerns/respect life, represented the FCCB at the Wednesday press conference. Early estimates of the cost of the proposal slowed progress on the bills. With revised estimates that are much lower, there is hope that this issue will get attention during the budget conference process. For more on these bills, see the Catholic Days information sheet.

Bill Addresses Care of Mental Health Residents
A measure that revises requirements related to the care of mental health residents of assisted living facilities saw action this week. CS/SB 646 (Children, Families, and Elder Affairs) was passed by the full Senate (38-0) on Thursday, while its companion, CS/CS/HB 1319 (Gonzalez), was unanimously passed by the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee earlier in the week.

EDUCATION

School Emergencies Bill to Be Heard in House Chamber
CS/HB 369 (La Rosa)
unanimously passed its last committee of reference, Education, and is on the agenda to be taken up by the full House. The bill requires agencies responsible for notifying public schools about certain local emergencies to also notify private schools in the area if they opt-in to receive such alerts. It also includes a provision to allow both public and private schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors for use if a student is having an anaphylactic reaction. Companion CS/SB 284 (Negron) passed the Senate unanimously last week. For more on the bill, see an updated information sheet.

House Education Committee Files Bill to Streamline Agency Oversight for VPK and School Readiness Programs
HB 7165
, originally introduced as EDC2, was filed by House Education on Wednesday, and it is now in the House Appropriations Committee. 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.

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

CS/HB 215 (Albritton) – Children in Foster Care – Signed by Governor
CS/HB 159 (Edwards) – Sentencing for Controlled Substance Violations – Favorable with CS by Justice Appropriations Subcommittee (13-0)
CS/CS/SB 778 (Thompson) – Transactions in Fresh Produce Markets – Favorable by Rules (15-0)
CS/HB 607 (Rogers) – Canned or Perishable Food Distribution – House Passed (115-0)
CS/SB 402 (Joyner) – Homeless Prevention – Favorable with CS by Rules (14-0)
CS/HB 93 (Reed) – Homeless Prevention – House Passed (113-1)
CS/HB 7051 (Higher Education & Workforce Subcommittee) – Resident Status for Tuition Purposes – House Passed (111-4)
SB 282 (Richter) – Consumer Finance Charges – Favorable by Commerce and Tourism (11-0)
CS/CS/SB 58 (Hays) – Application of Foreign Law – Favorable by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs (5-4)
CS/SB 102 (Detert) – Charitable Contributions – Favorable by Rules (14-1)

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.

CS/SB 1636 (Flores) – Infants Born Alive – Judiciary, 04/15/13, 1:00 pm
SB 488 (Braynon) – Medicaid Dental Services – Health Policy, 04/16/13, 1:30 pm
SB 1816 (Appropriations) – Health Care Actions – Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, 04/17/13, 11:00 am
SB 1844 (Health Policy) – Health Choice Plus Program – Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, 04/17/13, 11:00 am
CS/CS/HB 1315 (Perry) – Independent Living – Health & Human Services Committee, 04/16/13, 9:00 am
CS/HB 631 (Fullwood) – Transactions in Fresh Produce Markets – Health & Human Services Committee, 04/16/13, 9:00 am
CS/CS/HB 1125 (Goodson) – Wage Theft – Judiciary Committee, 04/16/13, 2:00 pm
HB 7083 (Criminal Justice Subcommittee) – Postconviction Capital Case Proceedings – Judiciary Committee, 04/16/13, 2:00 pm
HB 7137 (Criminal Justice Subcommittee) – Juvenile Sentencing – Judiciary Committee, 04/16/13, 2:00 pm
CS/CS/HB 159 (Edwards) – Sentencing for Controlled Substance Violations – Judiciary Committee, 04/16/13, 2:00 pm

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