The 2013 regular session of the Florida legislature has come to an end and the impasse between the Congressional Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate continues with no hint of progress on many fronts. It is enough to drive a person of feeling and compassion to despair. Little was done in Tallahassee of benefit to all the residents of the state (lobbyists for big business generally got what they sought) and a number of important matters were left on the table at the end because of the intractability of many members of the legislature.
Among the more egregious actions to my mind or in some cases inactions would be the following:
(1) The failure to come to any agreement about the expansion of Medicaid benefits for the poor under the Affordable Care Act which practically guarantees that over fifty million dollars and benefits which would have come to Floridians from the federal government will now find their way to another state. Shameless!
(2) Not only does the Florida legislature not wish to do away with the death penalty (as last week did the Maryland legislature and two years ago the New Mexico legislature) but they wish to speed up executions in the state. Establishing a strict timeline almost insures that the number of innocent people executed will increase (DNA results applied to Florida death-row inmates alone has resulted in a score of convictions of those planned to be executed in this state to be reversed but it took a lot of time). I hope Governor Scott vetoes this possibly prairie popular law.
In the interest of fairness, I do wish to acknowledge that additional protection for the pre-born has been provided this session and a long overdue increase in salary for public school teachers has been put in place as well.
Now, for the Washington scene, a major disappointment was the defeat of a very modest first effort at very limited gun control. It came close but not enough. Immigration reform now seems caught up in the party partisan debate and at times it seems like President Obama has decided he can not do anything about the Congress he has been dealt so doing nothing is a virtue. How many more Sandy Hooks (Newtown) or Auroras (Colorado) will it take, ladies and gentlemen of the House and Senate? Finally, there will be someday a national debate on drone missiles, but how much discussion on collateral damage and loss of innocent life will precede that?
Some may think that this bishop got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, but I hope a few of you can see the strong stream of Catholic moral theology which courses throughout political debate and decisions. Thirty years ago last Saturday, the bishops of the United States issued their pastoral letter, “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response.” It had its critics but it also had its effects, all salutary. Today it would seem that corporately, we bishops, at times, solely tend to focus on abortion, contraception, euthanasia when once all “life and death issues” were a part of a “seamless garment.” No political party I know of is truly and fully pro-life. No legislative body either, at the state or federal level, is truly and fully pro-life. Hence, a pox on all their houses.