Friday, July 20, 2018
Politics

Florida Supreme Court rules tuition power resides with Legislature

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Legislature, not the Board of Governors, has the power to set tuition rates and fees at public universities, but lawmakers cannot tell the panel how to manage those institutions, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The unanimous decision was mostly a defeat for former Gov. Bob Graham and other plaintiffs who had challenged lawmakers' authority over tuition and fees. They argued that a state constitutional amendment creating the board also transferred those functions to the new panel, but the high court disagreed.

"That's very disappointing," Graham said when informed of the decision.

However, the plaintiffs' lawyer, Robin Gibson, said a finding that the Legislature's taxing power — rather than its legislating authority — lets it set tuition and fees also means lawmakers cannot dictate academic policies such as creating new law or medical schools.

"That's none of their business," Gibson said. "The Board of Governors can do that."

Graham, also a former U.S. senator, led a petition drive that put the amendment on the ballot after the Legislature abolished the Board of Regents, which previously had overseen the State University System. Voters approved the amendment in 2002.

Its avowed purpose is to reduce the influence of politics on higher education by giving the board, with most of its 17 members appointed by the governor, responsibility to operate, regulate and control the 12 universities and "be fully responsible for the management of the whole university system."

However, Justice Barbara Pariente wrote for the court that the amendment "is devoid of any indication of an intent" to turn over to the board the "quintessentially legislative power" to set tuition and fees. That authority is part of the Legislature's "constitutional duty to raise and appropriate state funds," Pariente wrote.

"We are reviewing the case, but if the initial summary is correct, this is a huge victory for the Legislature and for Florida," said House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. "Tuition will be set by those who are elected and accountable to Floridians."

Tuition has been and continues to be a contentious issue.

Gov. Rick Scott is opposing new tuition increases. The Republican governor last year also vetoed a bill that would have let the state's top two research schools, the University of Florida and Florida State University, exceed a 15 percent annual cap on tuition increases.

University presidents, meanwhile, have agreed not to ask for another boost in tuition in exchange for the equivalent of a 15 percent increase — $118 million — in additional taxpayer funds. They also want the Legislature to restore $300 million cut from their budgets last year.

The opinion affirmed prior decisions by a trial judge and the Tallahassee-based 1st District Court of Appeal.

For the past six years, the Legislature has reduced state support to the universities by $1 billion including the current budget year's $300 million cut. Tuition has gone up in each of those years to partly offset the state reductions, but Florida's rates remain among the lowest in the nation.

Comments
Tampa Bay and Florida businesses expect tariffs to drive prices up

Tampa Bay and Florida businesses expect tariffs to drive prices up

TAMPA — Tariffs imposed by the Trump administration and other countries are beginning to push up prices and depress demand in spots around the Tampa Bay area and Florida, business executives say."We’ve definitely seen that the tariffs have increased ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
March column: Is Congressional District 16 more flippable? What about District 15?

March column: Is Congressional District 16 more flippable? What about District 15?

In the wake of good fundraising news for Democrat David Shapiro, who is running against Rep. Vern Buchanan in Congressional District 16, political analysts are upping their odds of Shapiro’s winning. But what about Congressional District 15, where Re...
Published: 07/20/18
Trump says he’d have no problem beating former VP Biden in 2020

Trump says he’d have no problem beating former VP Biden in 2020

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump said in an interview broadcast Thursday that running against Joe Biden in 2020 would be "a dream," claiming that Barack Obama "took him out of the garbage heap" to make him his running mate in 2008.Trump was asked ...
Published: 07/19/18
At St. Pete rally, protesters call Trump’s remarks on Russia ‘treason’

At St. Pete rally, protesters call Trump’s remarks on Russia ‘treason’

ST. PETERSBURG — Linda and Jack Miller braved the humidity at Demens Landing on Wednesday night for a simple reason: "Treason," said Linda Miller, 66. The St. Petersburg couple joined more than 100 protesters toting signs, pins and megaphones...
Published: 07/18/18
Updated: 07/19/18
Meet the man who might have brought on the age of ‘downloadable guns’

Meet the man who might have brought on the age of ‘downloadable guns’

During the summer of 2012, Cody Wilson hung around J&J, a car-repair shop run by two "goofy" guys in their late 20s. The Austin warehouse was crowded with engine blocks, car parts and Pelican boxes that never seemed to have been opened, but the 24-ye...
Published: 07/18/18
‘She was like a novelty’: How alleged Russian agent Maria Butina gained access to elite conservative circles

‘She was like a novelty’: How alleged Russian agent Maria Butina gained access to elite conservative circles

WASHINGTON - For nearly five years, the young Russian political-science student was an unusual fixture at the most important events of the U.S. conservative movement.Maria Butina, who was indicted this week on charges of being a covert Russian agent,...
Published: 07/18/18
PolitiFact: Fact-checking the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin summit

PolitiFact: Fact-checking the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin summit

President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin made inaccurate statements to the media following their one-on-one talks in Helsinki about election meddling, global terrorism and nuclear nonproliferation.Here’s a rundown of our fact-checks.Trump:...
Published: 07/17/18
Obama gives Trump sharp rebuke in Mandela address on values

Obama gives Trump sharp rebuke in Mandela address on values

JOHANNESBURG — Former U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday took aim at "strongman politics" in his highest-profile speech since leaving office, urging people around the world to respect human rights and other values now under threat in an imp...
Published: 07/17/18
Romano: Excuse me Gov. Scott, but you’re a hypocrite

Romano: Excuse me Gov. Scott, but you’re a hypocrite

Hypocrisy, thy name is Rick Scott.And, yes, I owe Shakespeare an apology.But I think Florida’s governor owes all of us an apology.This isn’t about one man’s opinion, and it isn’t about philosophical differences. This is about a politician who is publ...
Published: 07/17/18
Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling

Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling

HELSINKI — Standing next to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump openly questioned his own intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Moscow was to blame for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election to Trump’s benefit and seemed to accept Putin’s i...
Published: 07/16/18