Door remains open for in-state tuition rates for undocumented students

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The door is still open for the Florida legislature to approve in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants, says Senate President Don Gaetz. The proposal has been a top priority for House Speaker Will Weatherford.

Although Gaetz is not in favor of the idea, and would personally vote against it, he did tell Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida that he will not stand in the way if it should come to the Senate floor.  

“Somebody who favors providing in-state tuition to the children of undocumented, or if you wish, illegals, did a vote count and came in and talked with me about it and they said there’s 18 votes to pass what the speaker is proposing. And that’s before the debate even starts. I think we’ll have a divided Senate in this issue,” the Niceville Republican said on Friday. “It’s an issue where people have to think about where they come from, what their values are, what they think is good public policy.”

A GOP-backed bill allowing in-student tuition rates for undocumented students who attend at least three years at a Florida public school could be just the boost the Republicans need with Hispanic voters.

State Sen. Jack Latvala will announce details of his proposal in Clearwater on Wednesday. The veteran legislator, a possible Senate president after the 2016 elections, told the News Service the issue is crucial, not only to Weatherford, but to the GOP “as a whole.”

Undocumented immigrants, Latvala added, have been “assisting” Florida by paying gasoline and sales taxes.

“The reason for the differential on tuition between in-state and out-of-state,” he said, “is to basically give a discount to people who’ve been Florida taxpayers.”

Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican seeking re-election against likely Democratic candidate Charlie Crist, told the Hispanic Legislative Caucus in a recent speech he would “consider” the idea. The issue is a top priority for the caucus.

Another step in reaching out to Latino voters was the appointment of Hispanic former state representative Carlos Lopez-Cantera as lieutenant governor and 2014 running mate.

It was a distinct change of heart for Scott, who only four years ago ran on a policy of Arizona-style immigration reform, Kam writes. The governor also alienated Hispanics last year after vetoing a bill allowing young undocumented immigrants to obtain a state driver’s license, which received nearly unanimous support from the Legislature.


Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.