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With election looming, Republicans rally around in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants

by John Kennedy | April 1st, 2014

Florida Senate Republicans rallied Tuesday around a proposal that would grant in-state tuition to children of undocumented immigrants, risking the wrath of tea party conservatives in a bid to woo Hispanic voters to their side this election year.

The Judiciary Committee approved the measure (SB 1400) on a 7-2 vote. The House last month OK’d similar legislation with the support of Democrats and more than half the Republican caucus, with House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel spearheading the change.

The Senate still looms as a wild card. But sponsor Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said after Tuesday’s vote, ”We’ve still got a ways to go. But I feel very good about this.”

While differences remain, Latvala said he will propose recasting the Senate version so it matches the House proposal. That would require that students complete four years of high school in Florida — up from a three-year standard that remains in the Senate proposal.

Other provisions of the bill eliminate an annual cost-of-living increase which currently can boost tuition even when the Legislature and colleges and universities seek to hold the line. While the Senate proposal also would erase the ability of state universities to increase tuition by as much as 15 percent annually, Latvala said he plans to go along with the House approach that rolls that potential hike back to a maximum of six percent.

The measure also would assure that undocumented students are “residents for tuition purposes,” making them ineligible for state-financed scholarships. Students could pay the in-state rate if they enroll in a Florida college or university within two years of graduating from secondary school. Average nonresident tuition is $21,434 annually, compared with the in-state average of $6,318.

While Gov. Rick Scott supports the proposal, testimony Tuesday before the Senate panel showed how divisive the proposal remains within the state GOP.

James Calkins, a Republican activist from Santa Rosa County, urged Senate Republicans to oppose the legislation, saying it would “clearly damage our get-out-the-vote effort for 2014.”

“The issue will divide the Republican Party at a time when the party needs to stay united,” Calkins said.

Similar legislation has been around since at least 2001 — promoted chiefly by Miami-Dade County Republicans and most Democrats.

But Florida’s shifting demographics have caught the attention of strategists for both parties. With a bruising governor’s race underway, the tuition bill may emerge as a GOP peace offering to Hispanics, increasingly siding with Democratic candidates.

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9 Responses to “With election looming, Republicans rally around in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants”

  1. FloryP Says:

    Attention tea party activists. These were the a-holes who pretended to be against this kind of thing. How does it feel to be lied to by hypocrites? Get used to it. They used you for votes like they are now trying to use Latin people. Can’t believe you trusted these scum bags.

  2. Banksy Says:

    Yea let’s help immigrants get degrees cheaper who contributed little or no taxes revenue. Great idea!

  3. djb Says:

    It sucks to be an honest hard working American these days.You get s^%ted on by these Prick politicians who don’t care about you but only care about these scum bags who break the law.Now the GOP is getting in on it to save their vote.Shame on you.Its bad enough these liberal dems they don’t care Americans,now its the GOP.Tea party Candidates rescue us from these a#@hole libs and Rinos.

  4. Ed Says:

    How about helping our own kids first,I’been out of work for a year with a medical condition and cannot get any type of aid after paying taxes for 42 yrs. my daughter has been trying to get financial aid for school and having a hard time yet these illegals are getting everything.

  5. milly Says:

    Whoorz ALL!

  6. kelly Says:

    Hispanics should be insulted by this naked pandering.

  7. George Fuller Says:

    I gave testimony yesterday opposing SB1400. The meeting was stacked in favor of the supporters….one person was allowed more time to talk about his personal experiences than all of the opposition.

    Something no one asked about yesterday was how much the bill if it becomes law will cost.

    Regardless, “Lower Taxes” republicans voted for it….Will the Appropriations committees that are the next stops approve a bill with no costs associated with it?

  8. Garth Storb Says:

    This is just a smokescreen to hide their attempts to cut unding for higher education and scholarship support for deserving US citizens. Yeah their skin is too dark and they are too poor to study. All these kids must be illegal aliens or just plain “takers” of money for education so lets eliminate all scholarships, let them all pay out of state tuition. Prestidigitation at its best. At this rate only the millionaires will be able afford college.

  9. Jack Says:

    A recent study came out from the Federation for American Immigration Reform that said this bill would cause 5000 American students to lose their college slot and the bill will cost the taxpayers 21 million dollars. I guess nobody in the state legislature cares about American kids dreams or us taxpayers. It’s time to fire the whole bunch.

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