Beginning June 22, the Feast of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, the U.S. Catholic Church celebrates Religious Freedom Week. The annual celebration concludes on June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. Join us in promoting religious freedom "For the Good of All," which has been selected as this year's theme.
The U.S. Bishops, "...unequivocally state that racism is a life issue" (Open Wide Our Hearts, 2018). Tragically, the murder of George Floyd and so many other people of color like him shakes all of us into confronting that the dehumanization of black and brown people continues today.
The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee passed (5-2) a bill that would create a new statewide consumer-loan program that could charge interest rates as high as 36 percent on small-dollar loans. Florida statutes consider interest rates beyond 18 percent to be usurious. However, consumer finance loans (installment loans largely accessed by individuals with limited access to capital and traditional financial services) are allowed to charge up to 30 percent under current Florida law.
Members of the Sadowski Coalition - representing a diverse group of organizations including: advocates for elderly, veteran, homeless and special needs populations; faith-based organizations; and business associations - gathered at the Capitol to urge the Florida Legislature to use affordable housing trust fund monies as intended.
In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (22:39). Unfortunately, society has drifted away from this commandment, and hate has been spewed and acted out in many ways, most recently and notably in the mass shooting that occurred last weekend in El Paso, Texas. Racism and xenophobia are evident in the motive behind this and other mass shootings in recent years.
Religious Freedom Week 2019: Strength in Hope takes place from June 22 to 29. The week began with the feast day of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, includes the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, and ends with the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
For the first time in many years, full funding of the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund was included in a governor's proposed budget. Governor DeSantis' budget, which outlines potential spending for the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2019, does not recommend any sweeps of state and local housing trust funds. Legislators have historically raided the pool, which was established to provide funding for construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing, down-payment support, emergency repairs, and limited rental development to assist the disabled, elderly, veterans, disaster victims, and others in need of housing assistance.
The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops is deeply encouraged by the signal Governor DeSantis broadcast to the people of Florida and to the Florida Legislature by presenting a budget that uses every penny of Sadowski State and Local Housing Trust Fund money solely for housing. The Florida Catholic Conference was one of the eleven founding members of the Sadowski Coalition back in 1992 when the William E. Sadowski Act was enacted. We are now one of over 30 statewide organizations that comprise the Sadowski Coalition.
On March 19, Governor Rick Scott signed SB 920 into law. The measure allows a new product for payday loans up to $1000 that will cost consumers more in fees and interest payments than the current payday products. It also allows loans to be made at triple-digit annual percentage rates. Most comparable loans are capped at 30 percent.
The Florida legislature has acted quickly to address gun policy and school safety in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. HB 7101 and SB 7026 both contain key changes that improve state law and help to ensure that a tragedy such as the one that occurred in Parkland on February 14 never occurs again. Key provisions of the bills include:
Ingrid Delgado, FCCB associate for social concerns/respect life At a press conference organized by consumer advocates, Ingrid Delgado, FCCB associate for social concerns/respect life, spoke in opposition to bills that further the practice of usury among predatory lenders. Exploiting people who live in poverty is theft and usurious practices are the equivalent of indirect homicide. (Catechism, nos. 2409 & 2269)
A week after the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, several thousand people rallied outside the Capitol in Tallahassee on Wednesday, February 21. Survivors, families, local students and gun-control advocates called on state lawmakers to enact stricter gun laws. On the same day, about 100 students from Parkland met in person with legislators and state leaders, including Governor Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron, to press for immediate action on gun reform and school-safety measures to prevent another tragedy.
Both HB 857 (Grant, J.) and companion measure, SB 920 (Bradley), were found favorable by committees of reference this week. These bills further the practice of usury among predatory lenders in Florida, allowing loans to be made at triple-digit rates when calculated on an annual basis. All other comparable loans are capped at 30%. During the committee hearings, FCCB Associate for Social Concerns/Respect Life Ingrid Delgado testified in opposition to both the House and Senate proposals.
Payday lenders in Florida charge consumers an average of 278% annual percentage rate. Payday borrowers often have difficulty making ends meet when they repay the loan on their next payday, and then find themselves caught in a cycle of debt. The average payday borrower in Florida borrows 7.7 payday loans in one year; more than half will borrow 12 loans.
Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) and Representative Sean Shaw (D-Tampa) held a press conference to announce legislation they sponsored for the 2018 session that would prohibit future sweeps of the Sadowski Housing Trust Funds. FCCB staff stood with supporters at the press conference.
The Sadowski Housing Coalition - made up of 30 diverse statewide organizations, including industry and business groups; advocates for the elderly, veterans, homeless and special needs populations; and faith-based organizations - gathered March 2 to call on the Florida Legislature to use all state and local housing trust fund monies for affordable housing programs in Fiscal Year 2017-18. Michele Taylor, associate director for communications, represented the FCCB at the press conference.
On June 2, 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unveiled a proposal for a new federal rule on payday and car title lending. The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops joined with the Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection and other advocates to praise the proposed rule as a good start to addressing unscrupulous lending practices. However, additional work needs to be done to ensure the rule truly protects communities from predatory lenders.
April 22, 2016 marks the 46th anniversary of Earth Day. In keeping with Pope Francis' call to the faithful and all people of good will to care for God's creation, the Catholic Climate Covenant offers a myriad of resources for individuals, church groups and families to assist them in their celebration of our planet and its abundant resources.
The Regular Session of the Florida Legislature came to a close (sine die) at 6:45 p.m. on Friday, March 11. The motion to adjourn sine die, Latin for 'without day,' is the last action of a session of the Florida legislature.