High court asked to resolve tuition power dispute

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Arguing that the Legislature “resisted its loss of power,” a group that includes former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham wants the Florida Supreme Court to resolve a long-running dispute about the power of the university system’s Board of Governors to set tuition and fees, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.

The group filed a brief Friday asking the Supreme Court to take the case. The request came more than two months after the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with legislative leaders in the dispute, which stems from a 2002 constitutional amendment that created the Board of Governors.

The group, which also includes former Florida State University President Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte and former U.S. Rep. Lou Frey, contends that voters gave the power to set tuition and fees to the Board of Governors.

Traditionally, lawmakers have made such decisions as part of the annual budget process, and the brief argues that lawmakers improperly approved laws and budget language to avoid handing the power to the appointed board.

“The (Supreme) Court’s acceptance of this case will end the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the responsibility for hundreds of millions of dollars generated by the universities from payments made by student families in exchange for instruction and services at the campus level,” the brief says.

But in an Oct. 12 ruling, a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected the group’s arguments and said lawmakers have the constitutional power to decide how the state raises and spends money.

“We are unaware of any entity other than the Legislature in the history of our state that has been authorized by the Florida Constitution to exercise the quintessential legislative power of raising and appropriating state funds,” the court ruled. “Thus, if … such authority was vested in the board by (the constitutional amendment), it would be an unprecedented change in our state’s government.”

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.