Catholic policy goals head to Tallahassee

The political-advocacy arm of the Catholic Church in Florida has joined other policy groups to request politicians keep the unanimous consent of a jury as a requirement to sentence a convicted murderer to death. Bishop William Wack of the Catholic Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, which includes Niceville and Valparaiso, is a member of the network. 

Florida lawmakers will consider the twin house and senate bills, which would require a ⅔ majority of jurors to enact the death penalty in a capital murder case. The bills were introduced by Senator Blaise Ingoglia, a Republican of Spring Hill and Representative Berny Jacques, a Republican of Seminole. 

In 2017, the Florida Legislature changed the rule to require a unanimous jury – a win for the Catholic Bishops, whose teachings forbid using the death penalty. 

Florida has the country’s second most populous death row and has had the highest number of death row exonerees in the United States, with 30 exonerations. 

“Retaining the unanimity requirement would ensure a fair trial and a just decision, as unanimity is already required in every other circumstance when a jury is summoned in Florida,” noted a release from the Florida Catholic Advocacy Network. 

Alabama is the only state that does not require unanimity for using the death penalty. 

House Bill 555 is currently in its last committee of reference, while Senate Bill 450 is set for its last committee hearing, the Senate Rules Committee, on March 22 at 8:30 a.m. It passed its subcommittee hearings. Niceville’s Representative, Patt Maney serves on the Judicial Committee and will have a vote on the bills further movement toward law before it goes to the floor of the Florida House of Representatives for a vote.



a bishop in robes
Bishop Bill Wack has served as the bishop of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee since 2017.
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Other Policy Prerogatives for the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2023

In addition to their opposition of the death penalty, or making it easier to use the death penalty in Florida, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced they’ll fight for the following policies in the 2023 legislative session

 

 

Life

  • “Limiting the harm of abortion to the greatest extent possible”
  • Reducing demand for abortion by strengthening social structures that support pregnant women and families – including the Flordia Pregnancy Care Network
  • Restricting the use of the death penalty by exempting people with serious mental illnesses

Education

  • Expanding access to Florida Tax Credit Scholarships and the ability to use those scholarships in educational savings accounts
  • “Ensuring families with young children have sufficient resources and educational options for early childhood education.”
  • Enhancing parental rights in education.

Healthcare

  • “Strengthening health care conscience protections for providers and payors.”
  • Ensuring access to mental heatlhcare for economically disadvantaged and socially vulnerable people in Florida
  • Ensuring the ban on physician-assisted suicide and euthenasia are upheld

Family and Social Concerns

  • Defeating human trafficking 
  • Protecting poor and vulnerable from “traps of debt” and offering alternatives to license suspension to people who can’t pay traffic fees 
  • Using Sadowski and general revenue funds from the state’s coffers to address the state’s affordable housing crisis
  • Improving conditions in state prisons
  • Calling on US Congress to pass “federal multifaceted immigration reform”

 

You can read the full list of their public policy prerogatives here.




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