In-State Tuition Bill Narrowly Passes Senate Committee
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A bill to offer in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants squeezed through the Senate Education Committee Tuesday. The vote was 5-4.
The bill, SB 1400, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, would allow DREAMers to take advantage of the same in-state tuition rates as Florida residents at colleges and universities across the state.
Latvala’s bill relied heavily on support from Democrats -- all four of the “no” votes came from Republican senators, including Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, and Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.
Not all Republican members of the committee opposed the legislation, however.
“I think these young people, these students, deserve the opportunity to get an education at the same rate as someone who has grown up, like they have, in this state,” said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs.
Gov. Rick Scott put his support behind Latvala’s bill last week in part because the bill would prevent state universities from raising tuition rates above those set by the Florida Legislature.
"I'm appreciative of the fact that [Latvala’s] concerned about the debt that our students are ending up with and that tuition has been growing too fast," Scott said of the proposal. "I like his bill because he's doing the right thing."
The legislation has also gathered immense support from House Speaker Will Weatherford, who has made the issue one of his top priorities for this year’s legislative session.
The proposal's House counterpart, HB 851, sponsored by Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, R-Miami, has followed a much easier path -- it sped through a House panel last week and is headed to the House floor.
If Tuesday’s close vote is any indication, however, it appears the bill will have a much tougher time gathering support in the Senate. Latvala said he hopes the bill will at least make it to the Senate floor for an up or down vote.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at Allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.