Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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.

Florida Supreme Court rules tuition power resides with Legislature 01/31/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 10:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Drinking alcohol on St. Pete Beach beaches now allowed — for hotel guests only

    Local Government

    ST. PETE BEACH — Guests at gulf-front hotels here can now drink alcoholic beverages in permitted hotel beach cabana areas.

    Guests relax on the beach near the Don Cesar at St. Pete Beach. Guests at gulf-front hotels in St. Pete Beach can now drink alcoholic beverages in permitted hotel beach cabana areas after the change was passed unanimously by the City Commission Tuesday night. Residents and other beachgoers who are not registered guests of the hotels continue to be barred from imbibing anywhere on the city's beaches.
  2. Man found floating in 'Cotee River in New Port Richey

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A body was found floating in the Pithlachascotee River on Tuesday morning, police said.

  3. More than 13,000 fact-checks later, PolitiFact celebrates 10-year mark


    ST. PETERSBURG — Bill Adair still remembers the moment when he realized his idea to fact-check politicians could turn into something big.

    (from left to right) Aaron Sharockman, Politifact executive director introduces a panel featuring Angie Holan, Politifact editor; PolitiFact founder Bill Adair and Tampa Bay Times Editor and Vice President Neil Brown at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg on Tuesday. The event celebrated 10 years of PolitiFact and its growth since 2007. The panel discussed the history of the organization and how it goes about fact-checking. [EVE EDELHEIT | Times]
  4. Trump, McConnell feud threatens GOP agenda


    The relationship between President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises.

    Sen. Mitch McConnell has fumed over Trump’s criticism.
  5. Former Sen. Greg Evers, advocate for law enforcement, dead at 62.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Former State Sen. Greg Evers, the Baker Florida strawberry farmer and veteran politician, was killed in a single car crash hear his home in Okaloosa County. The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the death late Tuesday, but deferred any further information pending an investigation. He was 62.

    Former Florida Senator Greg Evers, R- Milton, was a passionate advocate for law enforcement and corrections officers. He was found dead Tuesday afternoon in a car crash. He was 62. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]