Second Week of the 2011 Regular Legislative Session

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March 14-18, 2011
Included with each weekly summary is a link to our full legislative report, which is updated on a daily basis. The report also provides access to definitions of legislative jargon, charts on how an idea becomes a law and links to the web pages of the Florida Senate and House.

Catholic Days at the Capitol
On Tuesday and Wednesday, over 275 Catholics from Florida’s seven dioceses gathered in Tallahassee for Catholic Days at the Capitol. Before attending meetings with legislators, participants were briefed on four issues to discuss with their lawmakers: Abortion Constitutional Amendment, Religious Freedom Act, McKay Scholarship Program, and Sentencing in Capital Felonies.

Senator Negron during his acceptance remarks

L to R: Sheila Hopkins, Rep. Stargel and Bishop Noonan

Senator Alexander

At the Catholic Days luncheon on Wednesday, the bishops of Florida honored Representative Kelli Stargel, Senator Joe Negron and Senator JD Alexander with “Defensor” Awards.  > news release


Diocesan Group Photos
> Group photos of participants by diocese 

Bishops of Florida Meet with Governor Scott
When schedules allow, the bishops make an effort to meet annually with the governor while in Tallahassee for Catholic Days events. The bishops met with Governor Rick Scott on Wednesday to discuss public policy issues and priorities related to the sanctity of human life and the dignity of all persons, including the immigrant and the incarcerated, access to health care by the poor and vulnerable, and the rights of parents.

Red Mass of the Holy Spirit

Florida Bishops

The 36th annual Red Mass was celebrated by the bishops of Florida on Wednesday evening at the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More. Members of the community joined Catholic Days at the Capitol participants, the governor, members of the cabinet and legislators to pray for divine inspiration and guidance for all those serving in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and the legal profession. 

Senator Oelrich

Archbishop Wenski

Senator Steve Oelrich, District 14, Gainesville served as lector.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami delivered the homily, referencing St. Thomas More, the patron saint of politicians, and his loyalty to God and to his faith, a witness greatly needed in today’s society.

> Read Archbishop Wenski’s homily
> Listen to Archbishop Wenski’s homily


  SAVE THE DATE: Catholic Days at the Capitol – February 7-8, 2012
Red Mass – February 8, 2012

Bills Seeing Action This Week
Abortion Constitutional Amendment
Proposes amendments to the State Constitution to prohibit public funding of abortions and prohibit the State Constitution from being interpreted to create broader rights to an abortion than those contained in the United States Constitution.

On Monday, SJR 1538 (Flores) was found favorable (8-4) at a meeting of the Health Regulation Committee, during which the Conference waived in support. Concern was expressed by some of the committee members that, although the measure contains exceptions for the life of the mother, it does not contain exceptions for rape or incest. The Church teaches that a life created by the violence of rape and incest is an innocent child that should not be destroyed by the violence of abortion. The resolution is on the agenda for the Judiciary Committee next Tuesday March 22. Companion HJR 1179 (Baxley) is now in the Health and Human Services Committee.

Health Exchange
Applies key provision of the “Hyde amendment” to Florida’s health insurance exchange established in health reform by precluding purchase of elective abortion coverage when public funds are used.

SB 1414 (Wise) was reported favorably by Health Regulation (8-4) on Monday and is on the Banking and Insurance Committee agenda for Tuesday, March 22. Companion HB 97 (Gaetz, M.) was found favorable (10-5) with a committee substitute by the Health and Human Services Access Subcommitte and goes next to Insurance and Banking. At both committee meetings this week, Michael Sheedy, Associate Director for Health, provided testimony against amendments that would weaken limits on abortion coverage.

Choose Life License Plates
Provides for the annual fees collected on Choose Life license plates to be distributed to Choose Life, Inc. for redistribution to not-for-profit agencies that assist pregnant women. Currently the fees go to counties for distribution. 

SB 196 (Fasano) was reported favorably (5-2) on Wednesday by Transportation. The bill’s next stop is Community Affairs. Companion HB 501 (Baxley) was reported favorably (12-6) on Thursday by its final committee of reference, Economic Affairs and has been placed on the House calender. Sheila Hopkins, Associate Director for Social Concerns/Respect Life, provided testimony in support of this proposed legislation at both meetings this week.


Bishop Dewane

SB 2040 (Judiciary) was submitted as a committee bill this week. The bill requires employers to use the E-Verify Program to determine the employment eligibility of each new employee. An amendment to the bill provides an exception to this requirement if employees present specified documents to the employer, such as an unexpired U.S. passport or driver’s license. At a Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday, the Conference indicated that the amended bill helped to lessen our concerns regarding the use of the often inaccurate E-Verify system and that we will continue to work with the committee on the issue of immigration. The bill does not currently have a companion, however, compares to immigration bills SB 518 (Hays), HB 691 (Harrell) and SB 1896 (Evers).

On Thursday, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the Diocese of Venice spoke on behalf of the bishops of Florida at an interfaith prayer service to recognize the contributions of immigrants. The service was coordinated by the Florida Council of Churches and hosted at the First Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee.

> Bishop Dewane’s remarks

Prior Legislative Summaries
> Session Summary: Week 1