Will Florida Gov. Rick Scott support in-state tuition for undocumented students?

Herald/Times Tallahassee BureauMarch 5, 2014 

How can House Speaker Will Weatherford get Gov. Rick Scott on board with a proposal that would extend in-state college tuition rates to undocumented students?

Scott has said he is willing to "consider" the bill. But in order to win re-election in November, Scott will have to rally his base -- conservatives who aren't big fans of pro-immigrant policies.

The governor has clear high-education priorities this year: hold the line on tuition, and abolish 15 percent tuition differential hikes at select state universities.

Would the Legislature consider giving Scott his cap on tuition in exchange for in-state tuition for undocumented students?

Said Weatherford: "I think it's a little early in the session to be talking about exchanges."

An exchange might not even make sense, Weatherford added, because the House also wants to hold the line on tuition for all students.

"I don't think there's anything to trade," Weatherford said.

But the bills could potentially be combined, forcing the governor's hand.

That's all assuming the bill receives favorable votes on the House and Senate floors.

The proposal has thus far sailed through the lower chamber. It won the unanimous support of Education Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday morning, and is now headed for a floor vote.

There is momentum in the Senate, too. Republican Sen. Jack Latvala recently introduced the proposal in the upper chamber, and said Tuesday that he counts enough votes to pass the bill.

Supporters have yet to win over Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

But they haven't given up.

On Wednesday, Rep. Jeanette Nunez introduced (and the House Education Appropriations Committee approved) an amendment that would extend in-state tuition rates to the children of military families stationed in Florida. The language directly addresses concerns raised by Gaetz, whose northwest Florida district includes a number of military bases.

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