Gov. Rick Scott has a message for Florida senators: pass the bill to offer in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants.
The governor joined former Florida Govs. Jeb Bush and Bob Martinez Friday to advocate the passage of SB 1400, which would allow all Florida students to qualify for the in-state tuition rate.
Students who have spent their childhood here in Florida deserve to qualify for the same in-state tuition rate at universities their peers and classmates do, said Scott. We want our students to stay here in Florida when they go to college and when they choose a career, and that means we must make college more affordable for all those students who call Florida home.
Scott then urged the Florida Senate to take immediate action to move the bill forward.
The governor was joined in his support for the in-state tuition bill by two familiar faces in Florida politics: Jeb Bush and Bob Martinez. Both former governors agreed its time to offer the same tuition rates to all Florida students, regardless of their immigration status.
Punishing some children for their parents' acts by creating obstacles to a college degree isn't in their interests, or ours, said Bush.
The tuition bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, suffered a rocky run in the Senate. On Thursday, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, used a procedural move to block the bill from being heard next week in a Senate committee.
In-state tuition discounts should, in my view, be reserved for legal residents of Florida, Negron said. Florida law does not prohibit students who are undocumented from accessing our state colleges and universities. Once these students favorably resolve their residency status, they could be become eligible for in-state tuition.
Because of Negrons move, its now unlikely the bill will be considered during this years legislative session.
Latvala, who is vying with Negron for the Senate presidency, called Negrons move a slap in the face.
What he has done is a slap in the face to our governor, whos already announced support for this bill, he said. And its a slap in the face for the speaker who put a lot on the line. Its a slap in the face to Jeb Bush who had been taking fire from right-wing Republicans across the country because he spoke of his convictions on immigration.
But despite Negrons procedural move, Scott, Bush and Martinez arent giving up in trying to wield their political influence over Floridas senators to pass the bill.
For Florida to continue to be a land of opportunity and a beacon of freedom to people from all backgrounds, we must ensure our future generations are prepared for success, said Martinez.
SB 1400s House counterpart, sponsored by Rep. Jeanette Nuz, R-Miami, has had a much easier time sailing through the Florida House, passing by a vote of 81-33.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, a staunch advocate of the bill, remained hopeful that the legislation would pass.
There are times throughout history when our laws are in conflict with God's Law ... freedom and justice," Weatherford tweeted on Friday. Two weeks is plenty of time."
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at Allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.