VOTER GUIDES NOW AVAILABLE!
Florida Family Policy Council’s 2016 Presidential Primary Voter Guide is now available! This voter guide has extensive research on each of the presidential candidates with issues that are important ranging from abortion and judges to immigration and common core. If you are already subscribed to our email alerts you can get your digital copy HERE. If you’re a pastor/church, you can even order paper copies hand delivered to your congregation by clicking HERE. In addition, we are still looking for volunteers to help deliver these guides. If you are interested in helping in your county, email your complete contact information and county to [email protected] or please call us at (407) 251-5130.
SAVE THE DATE for the Awakening Pastor’s Summit in Orlando, Friday March 4th and the Awakening Conference, Saturday March 5th!
The Awakening 2016 (Saturday, March 5) will be a unique and inspirational God and Country event bringing people together around our shared values. Join more than 40 national religious and political speakers for an in-depth day of spiritual renewal and patriotism! The new theme in 2016 is “A New Birth of Liberty.” Now is the time to take a stand and restore America’s future! Click here to get your tickets now before they’re gone! Admission: $50.
Pastors Awakening Summit (Friday, March 4) Florida Family Policy Council, Watchmen on the Wall, Liberty Counsel & Vision America cordially invite pastors and their spouses to join us for the Pastors Awakening Summit at Faith Assembly of God Church in Orlando, Friday, March 4th in partnership with Liberty Counsel’s The Awakening 2016 Event on Saturday, March 5th. Pastors and their Spouses will receive complimentary admission to both the Pastors event on Friday, March 4 and The Awakening event on Saturday, March 5th, a gathering of over 2,000 Christians. LUNCH WILL BE PROVIDED FREE OF CHARGE BOTH DAYS FOR PASTORS ONLY. Lodging registration is FULL to stay Friday, March 4th at the Gaylord Palms Resort, however, we do have a waiting list for registrations in case of cancellations and discounted rates for pastors who would like to reserve rooms at their own expense. Registration for the Pastors Awakening Summit are limited and will be accepted on a first call basis. For more information or for a list of speakers, click HERE.
FFPC President & General Counsel John Stemberger will be speaking at two events this coming week in Orlando & Vero Beach:
As part of FFPC’s Protect My Ministry lecture series, our President & General Counsel John Stemberger will be speaking at the 2016 FACCS (Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools) Administrator’s Conference on the topic of Legal Issues Facing Florida Christian School Leadership on Thursday, February 25, 2016, from 11am-11:45am in Orlando. Location: Wyndham Orlando Resort, 8001 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819
FFPC President & General Counsel John Stemberger will be giving a special lecture on “The Begining of the End: Ten Reasons we are winning the Pro-Life Battle” at the monthly luncheon of the Republicans for Life Club of Vero Beach. Location: Vero Beach Yacht Club, 3601 Rio Vista Blvd. Vero Beach, FL 32963
Click HERE for a list of other upcoming lectures & special events in your area!
Now on to the happenings of the Florida Legislature this week….
SB 1722: Termination of Pregnancies by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) continued to move forward this week, passing favorably along a party-line vote (5-3) out of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, its final Senate committee. The bill faced more resistance in this Senate subcommittee than its House companion bill did in its last committee in the House.
FFA’s Amber Kelly testified in the committee (watch HERE at minute 72:20) with the fact that there are currently 636 federally qualified community health centers in the state which provide services that organizations like Planned Parenthood facilities do not (i.e. mammograms). It is FFA’s position that funds should be shifted to these community health centers immediately as Planned Parenthood has morally disqualified itself from receiving public funding. It should be noted that this legislation removes public funding for all abortion clinics in the state, not just Planned Parenthood. Senator Grimsley (R-Sebring) expressed concern that if organizations like Planned Parenthood are no longer receiving state funding that low-income women will not able to receive appropriate healthcare.
Planned Parenthood brought a number of women to testify in committee about the necessity of Planned Parenthood facilities in low-income communities. The abortion giant is making it clear that they will not go without a fight and is working hard to discredit any arguments that are made against them.
During debate, Senator Sobel (D-Hollywood) went so far as to argue that abortion is part of the family planning process and should be covered by government funding. Current law prohibits the direct funding of abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is in danger.
In the end, while Senator Grimsley and the Subcommittee Chair, Senator Garcia (R- Hialeah), said their concerns had not been completely absolved, they would vote in favor of the bill, but expected to continue to work with Sen. Stargel to resolve the issue of capacity in serving the needs of low-income women.
SB 110: Pastors Protection Act by Sen. Bean (R-Jacksonville) passed favorably out of the Rules Committee this week in a party-line vote. It is currently on the Special Order calendar for next Tuesday (February 23rd).
This piece of legislation passed out of its final committee without amendment. Sen. Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee) attempted to amend the bill to further limit the religious liberties of churches and pastors. After the first amendment failed in a committee vote, Sen. Soto removed a second proposed amendment from consideration. Christian Family Coalition once again organized a group of pastors to protest the Soto amendments and support the bill without amendment.
Equality Florida, the leading LGBT advocacy group in the state, has continued in its steadfast opposition of the bill arguing that it is not necessary and that pastors are not at risk. They have organized a coalition of pastors who oppose the bill stating that it is unnecessary and they do not feel that their religious liberty is at risk.
The House version of the Pastors Protection Bill has already passed favorably out of all of its committees.
The House Regulatory Affairs Committee voted to expand gambling in the state last week through the Seminole Gaming Compact and the Pari-Mutuel facilities. This week the Senate followed suit.
The Senate Regulated Industries Committee was originally slated to discuss two gambling bills, one regarding the proposed Seminole Compact (SB 7074) and the other regarding decoupling pari-mutuels (SB 7072), last week. However, major amendments were filed late by Senate President-Designate Joe Negron (R-Palm City) and the Chairman Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) delayed discussion on these bills to give time for the other Senators to review the amendments.
This Wednesday, the Senate’s Regulated Industries Committee used its 2-hour meeting to discuss these two bills. Sen. Negron’s amendment to SB 7074 regarding the Seminole Compact was introduced to ensure that if the Legislature approved fantasy sports in the state after the compact was approved, that the state’s revenue sharing agreement with the Tribe would not be affected. ‘This provision was necessary, he argued, because the Compact explicitly prohibits online gambling unless the Tribe offers it first. The debate over whether fantasy gaming is gambling is happening in many US states this year, and conclusions are varied. Sen. Negron withdrew his other two proposed amendments to this bill. Some senators expressed the desire to have the Florida Legislature have additional input and control in the negotiation process with the Seminole Tribe. Others expressed frustration that the Compact may be deferred until next year and abrogating the Legislature’s responsibility in the matter.
SB 7072 relates to pari-mutuel facilities and would heavily expand gambling in the state. It does this by removing the requirement that pari-mutuel facilities have live races in order to offer other forms of gambling, such as slot machines. There were a number of proposed amendments to this bill. Perhaps the most controversial of these was one by Sen. Negron which would have allowed fantasy sports in the state. Sen. Latvala (R-Clearwater) called for a point of order on the amendment stating that the amendment was not germane to the rest of the bill. Sen. Bradley upheld the point of order and so, for now, fantasy sports remains an ambiguous issue in the state. There is currently a bill relating to fantasy sports (HB707/SB832) rolling through both the House and Senate, but neither have passed through all of their committees. Amendments by Senators Abruzzo (D-Wellington), Margolis (D-Miami) and Stargel (R-Lakeland) all failed.
Looking forward, it is very possible that neither bill will be passed by the Legislature this year.
HB 669: Educational Choice by Rep. Sprowls (R-Clearwater) passed the full House of Representatives 79-34 on Thursday. This bill would, among other things, include educational opportunities for Florida’s students by allowing students to attend any public school anywhere in the state, provided they are not at capacity. It would also require public schools to provide syllabi to parents of course materials in advance so that parents can review what their children are required to learn or read and could opt them out if they were uncomfortable with the materials being taught. The House bill does not have a Senate companion bill. Therefore, once the Senate receives this bill, it will need to be referred to one or several Senate committees before being considered by the full Senate for a final vote. This action is possible but we do not know the likelihood of this occurring with 8 business days left until the last day of committees (March 1) on the 50th day of Session.
HB 835: Relating to Education by Rep. Eisnaugle (R-Orlando) passed the House overwhelmingly Thursday 112-0. This bill protects the right of parents to educate their children at home according to what’s best for their child, without fear of school district overreach. There have been several cases in Florida recently where school districts have overstepped their authority in homeschooling situations. An amendment was added to the bill on the House Floor, to strictly limit a school district’s authority to terminate a student’s enrollment in a home education program. Though this bill passed the full House unanimously, the Senate’s (similar) companion bill SB 1522 by Sen. Stargel (R-Lakeland), has yet to move in the committee process.
SB 784: Relating to Human Trafficking by Sen. Flores (R-Miami), which increases penalties for traffickers and massage establishments who perpetuate/facilitate such activities, and clarifies victims under 18 should not be convicted for prostitution charges, cleared its final committee yesterday (Fiscal Policy) 11-0 and will now head to the Senate Floor for consideration. It’s House companion bill HB 545 by Rep. Spano (R-Riverview) is also ready to be heard on the House Floor, having passed through its committees. The bills are identical and we expect unanimous support in both chambers for this legislation. FFA proudly supported this bill in committee Wednesday.