In-State Tuition Bill Passes Senate Judiciary Committee

By: Allison Nielsen | Posted: April 1, 2014 11:30 AM
Jack Latvala

Jack Latvala

A bill to offer in-state tuition rates for the children of undocumented immigrants made its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, winning a 7-2 vote.

SB 1400, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, has made waves through the Florida Legislature this session. Under Latvala’s legislation, Dreamers would be allowed to take advantage of the same in-state tuition rates as Florida residents at colleges and universities across the state.

“Every now and then, we have to put politics aside ... and just do what’s right,” Latvala said on Tuesday.

Several members of the public spoke on the legislation -- many of whom said they've waited years for in-state tuition rates to see the light of day in the Florida Legislature.

“I think it’s really important for folks to see how long it has taken us to bring the message to you ... that young folks really need their education,” said Margarita Romo, founder and executive director of Farmworkers Self-Help Inc. “I want to see this [bill] happen.”

When it came to the sincerity of Latvala’s legislation, Romo said she believes the Clearwater Republican had Dreamers’ best interests at heart.

“I know his heart is with these young people,” she told the committee.

Other members of the public slammed the legislation for allowing illegal immigrants to capitalize on the hard work of legal citizens of Florida.

George Fuller, a taxpaying citizen, criticized the legislation as “another piece of welfare.”

But most committee members were sympathetic to the legislation, saying they believe it is an important issue to the young people of Florida.

“I think as a practical manner, these kids aren’t in a position to tell their parents they aren’t going to go where they want them to go,” said Sen. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee. “It makes no sense ... with the lack of culpability of these young people that we are going to triple ... their college tuition.”

Other members echoed Soto’s comments.

“This isn’t about turnout at the election,” said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. “This is a people issue ... This is about the future of the state of Florida and the future of these young people. It’s time for us to act.”

Offering in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants 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, followed a much easier path, speeding through House panels. It was approved two weeks ago by the House with a vote of 81-33.

Latvala has 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 or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.

Comments (1)

Pinellas Native
5:04PM APR 3RD 2014
Senator Latvalla lost my vote forever !!! I cant believe I voted for this piece of crap putting illegal aliens in front of his own voters

Senator Latvalla deserves to be ousted

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