Toughest part of Jack Latvala’s immigration tuition bill is getting it to the Senate floor

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State Sen. Jack Latvala, sponsor of the bill allowing children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates, swears he has enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate.

The biggest challenge of the measure – one of House Speaker Will Weatherford’s highest priorities – is getting it before the full Senate floor for a vote, Latvala told Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida on Wednesday.

The House approved a similar bill (HB 851) last week that would make undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition rates at Florida colleges and universities, but as a prerequisite, they must first attend a Florida school for four consecutive years.

“I know beyond a shadow of a doubt,” Latvala said, “I know we have the votes to pass this in the Senate if we could just get a hearing on the floor.

“That will be our challenge.”

The Senate Education Committee closely approved Latvala’s proposal (SB 1400) last week in a 5-4 vote. Senate Judiciary Chair Tom Lee, a former Senate president, said he had not decided whether to schedule the bill for a committee hearing, but appeared to lean toward giving the idea a chance, even though he opposes the measure.

Latvala’s proposal includes a provision, supported by Gov. Rick Scott, that could reduce post-secondary costs for all students by eliminating the 15 percent annual “tuition differential”— the increases universities can charge without first going to the Legislature.

Rep. Jeanette Nunez, who sponsored the House version, wants to reduce the differential from 15 percent to 6 percent, Kam writes.

On Lee’s list of bills awaiting a committee hearing, a hand-written note in the margin next to Latvala’s proposal reads “governor’s priority.” Scott, who is facing a difficult re-election campaign and who ran for his first term on an Arizona-style immigration law, has not commented on the section of the bill dealing with undocumented students. But he say he favors Latvala’s plan.

Lowering tuition is one of Scott’s priorities.

“Sen. Latvala has a bill moving that’s supported by the governor,” Lee told The News Service of Florida. “I may be willing to agenda the bill just simply as a courtesy to him and the process.” Last week, Lee voted against the process.

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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 included covering news, local government and nightclub reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for an online metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013 and lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.