Scott signs 'Dreamer' tuition bill, launches state campaign tour
Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation Monday that allows students who are undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition at Florida colleges and universities. The bill (HB 851), sponsored by Rep. Jeannette Nunez, R-Miami, was one of the most intensely debated during the 2014 legislative session in Tallahassee.
Scott did not hold a formal signing ceremony, even though the bill was one of the session's most significant policy achievements. He began a week-long statewide campaign swing focusing on his support for keeping higher education affordable in Florida, whille criticizing Democratic opponent Charlie Crist for having supported higher tuition as a Republican governor. Here's Scott's campaign advisory issued after a Monday event in Estero:
"ESTERO, FL -- Governor Rick Scott visited Beef O'Brady's near Florida Gulf Coast University in the Fort Myers area today to highlight his efforts to reverse the burdensome tuition increased signed into law by Charlie Crist. Governor Scott also discussed his work to keep college affordable for all Florida students as wekk as his efforts to significantly reduce the cost of Florida Prepaid savings plans, provide in-state tuition for veterans, and work with Florida state colleges to offer $10,000 degrees in important fields."
The immigrant tuition bill passed the House 84-32 but was stalled in the Senate until Scott enlisted the public support of two former Republican governors, Jeb Bush and Bob Martinez, both of whom called on the Senate to take action. "Dreamer" students, dressed in orange mortar boards, were a freqent presence in the Capitol Rotunda this past spring as they rallied support for the measure.
Early on in the session, Scott was careful to express his support for the bill only because it also freezes tuition at current rates. But crafty legislators tied the tuition freeze to the more controversial provision that grants residency for tuition purposes to undocumented students. Republican Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater maneuvered the legislation to a successful floor vote, and while Senate President Don Gaetz personally opposed the bill, he did not stop it from being considered. Only UF and FSU have flexibility to impose tuition increases, and the bill lowers it from 15 percent to 6 percent at both flagship universities.