Sixth Week of the 2011 Regular Legislative Session

April 11 – April 15, 2011: SIXTH WEEK OF THE 2011 REGULAR LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Included with each weekly summary is a link to our full legislative report, which is updated on a daily basis. The report also provides links to the Florida Senate and House and access to a glossary of legislative terms.

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April 11 – April 15, 2011
SIXTH WEEK OF THE 2011 REGULAR LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Included with each weekly summary is a link to our full legislative report, which is updated on a daily basis. The report also provides links to the Florida Senate and House and access to a glossary of legislative terms.


HIGHLIGHTED ACTIVITY FOR THE WEEK:

Life and Death
Abortion Constitutional Amendment
This joint resolution cleared committees in the House and Senate with Conference staff indicating support for the proposal at both meetings. CS/HJR 1179 (Baxley) was amended and passed the House Health and Human Services Committee (12-6). It is referred next to Judiciary. CS/CS/SJR 1538 (Flores) was amended to incorporate federal Hyde amendment language and passed Senate Rules (9-3). It will go next to the Senate floor. The measure 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 the U.S. Constitution.

Parental Notice of Abortion
Sheila Hopkins, Associate Director for Respect Life/Social Concerns, gave testimony in support of SB 1770 (Hays) during a meeting of the Senate Health Regulation Committee. Bill provisions strengthen the parental notice mandate by requiring a notarized letter from a parent that waives the right to be notified, providing maturity standards for judges to consider and limiting the court in which a minor may seek a judicial bypass to the circuit in which she resides. The committee reported the bill favorable (9-3), and it is now in Judiciary. HB 1247 (Stargel) cleared the House Judiciary Committee (13-4) and has been placed on House calendar.

Abortion Regulation
CS/SB 1748 (Flores)
was reported out of Health Regulation (7-4) with a committee substitute and will go next to Criminal Justice. The Conference was present to support this proposed legislation that revises regulations governing the activities of abortion clinics. (Contrary to the position of the Bishops of Florida and the teachings of the Church on the sanctity of life, a representative of the group Catholics for Choice in Florida was present at the meeting and stated opposition to the bill.) Companion, CS/HB 1397 (Burgin), remains in Health and Human Services.

Choose Life License Plate
CS/SB 196 (Fasano)
cleared the Senate Budget Committee (15-4), setting it up for consideration by the full Senate. The bill stipulates that fees collected on the specialty license plate be distributed to Choose Life, Inc. for redistribution to crisis pregnancy centers assisting women considering an adoption plan for their child and was amended to clarify funds raised stay in Florida. HB 501 (Baxley) is on the House calender. 


Social Concerns


Linda Lee addresses committee

Farmworker memorial quilt

Farmworker Exposure to Pesticides
The Senate Agriculture committee invited farmworkers and advocates to speak about the high incidence of illness suffered by individuals working in the muck farms around Lake Apopka. Farmworker Linda Lee gave personal testimony on the types and frequency of illness caused by chronic exposure to pesticides and the lack of adequate health care available to the community. Jeannie Economos, Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator, Farmworker Association of Florida, and Erin Sologaistoa, Florida Association of Community Health Centers, also provided testimony. Chemicals in pesticides are especially harmful to children who often are in the fields, and are frequently linked to birth defects. Many of those adversely affected belong to families that have been farmworkers for generations.

On display was a quilt completed by the farmworker community to memorialize farmworkers who have lost their lives due to long term exposure to pesticides and dangerous work conditions.


Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Both Senate and House versions of a bill that requires new applicants for the TANF program to undergo and pay for a drug test cleared committee stops this week. After a failed test, applicants would be barred from receiving assistance for a year. A subsequent failed test would prohibit the receipt of benefits for 3 years. The bills were amended to allow an applicant who tests positive and attends a treatment program to receive benefits after 6 months. Michael Sheedy, Associate Director for Health, testified in opposition to the bill stating that it is unjust to require those seeking financial assistance to pay for a drug test when studies show so few abuse controlled substances. CS/SB 556 (Oelrich) passed Health and Human Services Appropriations (5-2). During a meeting of the Senate Budget Committee, Mike McCarron, Executive Director, restated the Conference’s opposition. The bill was reported favorable by the committee (12-7). CS/CS/CS/CS/HB 353 (Smith, J.) was passed by House Health and Human Services (12-6), its fourth and final committee of reference.

Immigration
After two hours of emotional testimony almost entirely against the bill, CS/HB 7089 (Snyder) passed the House Economic Affairs Committee (11-7). During the meeting, Florida Catholic Conference staff indicated opposition to this bill that requires all private and public employers to use the E-Verify system to check the immigration status of new hires. The bill also allows local and state law enforcement at the time of a criminal investigation to determine immigration status and charge those found to be undocumented with a misdemeanor. CS/SB 2040 (Judiciary), which offers an alternative to E-Verify by utilizing state-issued identification cards, was due to be heard this week by the Senate Budget Committee but has been deferred until after next week’s Passover and Easter holidays. The bill requires the Department of Corrections to enter into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for employee training under 287(g); however, local law enforcement can be exempted based on fiscal and personnel considerations.

 

Sadowski Affordable Housing Coalition
At the annual Housing Day Rally, the Sadowski Affordable Housing Coalition urged legislators to keep the housing trust fund intact and use the monies for their intended purpose. The Florida Catholic Conference is one of 24 organizations representing the housing industry, faith-based groups and advocacy associations that comprise the Sadowski Coalition. The Senate and House are going to conference on SB 2154 (Budget). This bill brings an end to the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund by permanently redirecting doc stamp revenues marked for state and local housing trust funds to general revenue.


Health
Medicaid Reform
CS/CS/CS/SB 1972 (Negron) reforms the Medicaid program by shifting participants to managed care plans. The bill was debated at length by the Senate Budget Committee. An amendment supported by the Conference was adopted that allows plans to not provide family planning services on the basis of moral or religious objection. The bill passed the committee (17-4) and goes next to the Senate floor. CS/HB 7107 (Schenck) was passed by the House and is in messages to the Senate.

Restricting Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Exchange
After being amended to mirror the language of the federal Hyde amendment that limits public funding of abortion, CS/CS/SB 1414 (Wise) passed the Budget Committee (14-4). The bill restricts abortion coverage when a subsidy is used to purchase insurance in the state exchange established by federal health reform. CS/HB 97 (Gaetz, M.) is in the House Health and Human Services Committee.


Education
McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities
CS/SB 1656 (Wise) passed its first committee of reference, Senate Education Pre-K-12 (3-0). Conference staff stated support for the bill during the committee meeting. CS/HB 1329 (Bileca) cleared House Education (11-3) and is now on the House calendar. This proposed legislation provides additional education options for students with disabilities by expanding program eligibility.

Florida Tax Credit Scholarship
Conference staff indicated support for CS/HB 965 (Horner), which passed the House Appropriations Committee. As this report was being prepared, CS/SB 1388 (Flores) was on the agenda for Senate Budget Committee. The measure authorizes the Department of Revenue to provide eligible scholarship-funding organizations a list of the top 100 corporate taxpayers in the state for the purpose of increasing participation in the program and increases the allowable tax credit from 75 percent to 100 percent of the contribution made to the program by qualifying companies.

K-12 Virtual Schools
SB 1620 (Flores)
, which expands Florida’s virtual education program, was on the agenda for the Senate Budget Committee at the time this report was prepared. An amendment filed by the sponsor revises eligibility to participate in a virtual school program from grades K-12 to 4-12. Current law permits students in public and private schools as well as home-schooled children to enroll in free courses offered by Florida Virtual School for grades 6-12. There is not a companion bill in the House.


Other
Religious Freedom
This joint resolution proposes an amendment to the State Constitution that deletes the prohibition against using public revenues directly or indirectly in aid of any religious institution. Michael Sheedy, Associate Director for Health, gave public testimony in support of both Senate and House proposals citing that recent court cases hinge on the no-aid provision, which could jeopardize participation in programs by faith-based providers of health care, education and social services. SJR 1218 (Altman) was reported favorable by Senate Judiciary (5-2) and goes next to Children, Families, and Elder Affairs. CS/HJR 1471 (Plakon) was amended and passed by the House Judiciary Committee (12-4) and goes next to the House floor.


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