In-state tuition for immigrants not quite dead yet in the Legislature

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 A controversial measure to allow in-state tuition rates undocumented immigrant students may get another shot at passing by means of a “strike-all” amendment filed on Friday.

The original bill was blocked by Senate Appropriations Chair Joe Negron who said the bill wasn’t necessary yet.

Sponsored by state Sen. Jack Latvala, who insists the matter is not quite dead, the issue has become one of the session’s biggest question marks, reports Matt Dixon of NaplesNews.com.

In the amendment, there is a three-tiered method to provide in-state tuition for undocumented students, as well as a provision to cut “differential tuition,” the amount universities to raise tuition without first getting legislative approval.

Latvala, who co-authored the bill with state Sen. John Legg, does not believe the new proposal would win over any opponents, one of which has been Senate President Don Gaetz. However, Dixon notes that Latvala is confident the votes he has are “solid,” and the bill will survive a Senate floor vote early in the week.

The amendment was part of HB 851, one that has already passed the House.

If passed, students born in the United States to undocumented immigrant parents will be eligible for in-state tuition. Those attending a Florida high school for three consecutive years, but are undocumented, will have a chance to compete for out-of-state tuition waivers.

Students who are U.S. citizens, but live with a relative who is undocumented, would also be qualified for in-state tuition.

A situation of the third category would be when a student’s parents died, and the student is living with an undocumented immigrant relative.

Using a novel approach to the question of “differential tuition,” where universities can raise tuition as much as 15 percent without approval from lawmakers. That plan eliminates all differential tuition except for Florida State University and the University of Florida.

FSU and UF can raise tuition 6 percent, as long as they meet three requirements, each offering 2 percent: research grants, graduation rates and patents awarded. If the school meets all three, the increase will be 6 percent.

Gov. Rick Scott has championed lowering differential tuitions. Ideally, Dixon writes, the governor would eliminate the measure, but he did indicate support for Latvala’s last bill (SB 1400) that capped it at 6 percent for FSU and UF. Another provision of the amendment reduces the cost of pre-paid tuition, which Scott also supports.

With less than a week in the legislative session, in-state tuition measure remains the most contentious issues, one that was also a top priority for House Speaker Will Weatherford.

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 HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, 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 phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.