The Hyde Amendment, contained in the federal government's annual appropriations legislation, prohibits federal funding of domestic abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. It is a bipartisan provision that has been part of federal appropriations for 45 years (since 1976). In addition to being widely supported by Americans, it saves lives and respects the consciences of Americans. However, it is now under grave threat.
On April 1, HB 241 (Grall) was passed by the full House (78-37). The bill ensures that the right of parents to review instructional materials and curriculum is transparent and forthcoming. It also establishes parental consent requirements for medical care provided to a minor child. Having access to information about their rights allows parents to make informed decisions and better direct their child's education and health care. FCCB support for the bill is highlighted in a letter to Rep. Grall. The measure will go to the Senate for final passage. Companion bill, SB 582 (Rodrigues, R.), is in its final committee of reference, Senate Rules.
On March 30, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously passed SB 1156 (Brandes), which prohibits individuals with severe mental illness that significantly diminished their moral culpability at the time of the offense from being sentenced to death. These individuals would still be held accountable for their crimes; the severe sentence of life without parole would remain a possible sentence. Pope Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict, and Pope Francis all called on the Church to work for the end to the use of the death penalty. However, as long as the State of Florida maintains the death penalty, we also support incremental improvements in the law that limit its harm. The next committee of reference, Judiciary, is currently not scheduled to meet again. There is no House companion bill.
On March 31, the House Appropriations Committee passed HB 5401 (19-10), which redirects two-thirds of documentary stamp taxes designated for the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund to address sea-level rise and upgrade sewage treatment. The bill also prohibits the sweeping of the remaining funds into general revenue. FCCB supports protecting affordable housing dollars from being swept, as well as resiliency and infrastructure improvements. However, the new formula would appropriate less money to affordable housing than has been appropriated with previous sweeps. FCCB supports full funding of the affordable housing trust fund, which has been proposed by Governor DeSantis every session during his term, and passed by the House last session. The Senate companion measure, SB 2512, passed the Senate Appropriations Committee (12-8), also on March 31.
HB 895 (Stevenson) passed the House Commerce Committee unanimously on March 29. FCCB supports this measure that gives vulnerable consumers an opportunity to access capital with less risk of exploitation. The bill ensures that borrowers are not penalized for prepayment of loans and that installment loans can be paid in installments. The term "installment loan" would presume multiple payments; however, installment lenders in Florida can require one lump sum payment which often results in borrowers having to re-borrow the same principal amount for additional interest and fees, leading to a cycle of debt. A lender that is licensed under the installment loan chapter, rather than the title loan chapter, can repossess the family vehicle on which the borrower depends to travel to work, making it even more difficult to repay the loan. SB 1478 (Gibson) waits to be heard by its second committee of reference, Commerce and Tourism.
Child Abuse Prevention Month leads us to a heightened awareness and serves as a solemn reminder of the need to be vigilant about providing a safe environment within the Church and our communities. We are all part of a larger culture of protection and healing within the Church, and each one of us can play an important role in strengthening this culture. We can better prevent abuse by eliminating situations that create the potential for abuse and by knowing how to recognize the signs of abuse. Noticing these warning signs, taking them seriously, and immediately reporting them are key to preventing abuse.
In a two-part series, FCCB Executive Director Michael Sheedy discusses gender ideology with Father Tim Cusick, a priest of the Diocese of St. Augustine and Academic Dean, St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary. In sharing his views on this topic, Fr. Cusick said, "There are certain elements of our biological sex which are fixed, that goes down to our DNA, but does that necessarily translate into particular social roles." Father Cusick went on to explain, "That doesn't mean that just because you have certain tendencies, enjoyments, or hobbies that you are a different sex. Gender aspects have now been defining of sex and that is where we get into a lot of confusion." He also talks about some of the impacts on the Church, the family and society." Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher.
On Friday, March 26, at the invitation of Rep. Erin Grall, Bishop William A. Wack, CSC, of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee offered the opening prayer before the House Session. You can view a recorded broadcast of Bishop Wack delivering the prayer on The Florida Channel (introduction starts at 11:07).
HB 259 (Williamson) passed the full House (76-37) on March 26. FCCB opposes this bill, which authorizes the carrying of concealed weapons or firearms on property owned, rented, leased, borrowed, or lawfully used by a church, a synagogue, or any other religious institution, unless the institution has a policy specifically prohibiting persons from carrying a firearm on such property. Current law already allows concealed weapon permit holders to carry firearms at most churches, unless the property owner prohibits it. The primary effect of the legislation would be to allow permit holders to carry weapons onto the campuses of religious schools, which is currently a second-degree misdemeanor. Schools that would seek to be gun-free would be required to enact policies to that effect; other schools may resort to allowing parents or faculty to provide armed security who are far less trained than required by law today. The Senate companion, SB 498 (Gruters), is in its final committee of reference.
On March 26, the House passed HB 1 (Fernandez-Barquin) (76-39). The FCCB opposes the bill as it is unnecessary and potentially harmful. According to the sponsor, the bill is intended to address public disorder in response to recent riots. However, any violence committed during a riot, or at any time, is already prosecutable, and it is unnecessary to raise penalties for those crimes. Additionally, some broad terms in the bill could potentially criminalize some of our ministries' public activities such as praying in front of an abortion facility, sidewalk counseling, and prayer vigils against the death penalty. FCCB's concerns with the measure are further outlined in a letter to the bill sponsor.
SB 52 (Rodrigues, R.) was passed (26-14) by the full Sente on March 25. The bill provides access to dual enrollment courses for all Florida students. Under current law, public school students and homeschool students have free, unencumbered access to dual enrollment courses. Private school students, however, have very limited access to dual enrollment. Dual enrollment allows students to take college level courses while they are still in high school. Usually these courses are taken on the college or university campus during the normal school day. The House companion, HB 281 (Duggan), waits to be heard by the House Appropriations Committee. You can read more about dual enrollment and its benefits for students on the FCCB Education Policy Team blog, Education and the Common Good.
Parents' Bill of Rights SB 582 (Rodrigues, R.) was passed by Senate Education (5-4). The bill ensures that the right of parents to review instructional materials and curriculum is transparent and forthcoming. It also establishes parental consent requirements for medical care provided to a minor child. Having access to information about their rights allows parents to make informed decisions and better direct their child's education and health care. Companion, HB 241 (Grall), remains on the House Calendar, on 2nd reading. A letter to the bill sponsor, highlights FCCB support.
On March 25, the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee passed a proposal (9-5) to redirect two-thirds of documentary stamp taxes designated for the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund to address sea-level rise and upgrade sewage treatment. HB 5401 also prohibits the sweeping of the remaining funds into general revenue. FCCB supports protecting affordable housing dollars from being swept, as well as resiliency and infrastructure improvements. However, the new formula would appropriate less money to affordable housing than has been appropriated with previous sweeps. Decent, safe, and affordable housing is a human right. Tens of thousands of Floridians were homeless and over 1 million Floridians spent more than 50% of their income for housing before the pandemic. With the loss of jobs and reduction in income that so many Floridians have experienced in the last year, this is not the time to significantly decrease affordable housing dollars. FCCB supports full funding of the affordable housing trust fund, which was passed by the House last session and what Governor DeSantis has proposed every session during his term.