Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Weatherford must back words with action for in-state tuition bill

To be clear, I'm not asking Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford to take anyone's life.

But Weatherford's admirable support of a bill that would allow all of Florida's children to pay in-state tuition — a measure that would make it easier for the kids of undocumented immigrants to attend state colleges — reminds me of one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies.

Remember The Untouchables, the 1987 Brian DePalma film about gangland Chicago in the Prohibition era? At one point, Sean Connery's character, one of the city's few honest cops, is talking to Eliot Ness, the straight-laced federal agent superbly portrayed by Kevin Costner, about bringing mob leader Al Capone to justice.

Connery, speaking in a strong Irish brogue, asks Costner, "What are you prepared to do?"

He goes on to explain that if he wants to capture Al Capone, he has to be prepared to do things the "Chicago way.''

"You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the 'Chicago way.' "

Again, Weatherford doesn't need to resort to violence to get the Legislature to pass the bill. But I do wonder what he is prepared to do because the challenges will be significant.

This is a proposal that failed to gain legislative approval in 2003, 2004, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

So far, Weatherford seems prepared to do a lot.

He publicly stated that he will vote yes on the version that has been filed in the state House, which requires students to be academically qualified and have attended a Florida high school to get the tuition break.

He followed that with an op-ed piece, published recently in the Tampa Bay Times, that hit all the right notes.

In his piece, Weatherford correctly noted that it's an economic issue, writing that, "We'll need the talents of all of Florida's students" to take advantage of the burgeoning technological revolution.

He also added a "moral dimension" to the issue, effectively arguing that we shouldn't punish children for the mistakes of their parents. And when you're asking students who were raised and educated in Florida to spend four times as much in tuition, that's a punishment.

"Every time I speak with these students, their words quicken and their eyes grow bright when they speak about their desire to attend college," Weatherford wrote.

Let's be clear, however. Quotes to the media and a well-written op-ed piece only constitute a first step in what will be a difficult battle. It's terrific that Weatherford has chosen to throw his considerable weight behind this issue, but the blowback will be fierce.

Last year, Gov. Rick Scott spoke in favor of accepting federal dollars to help provide health care to Florida's uninsured. But Scott never backed it with an earnest lobbying effort.

I don't want Weatherford to do the same, even though any issue related to immigration can be politically dicey. Just ask Marco Rubio.

In the end, the state needs Weatherford to translate his words into action. For so many reasons, it's a bill that needs to be passed, but it won't be unless he's prepared to do whatever it takes to even the playing field for an incredibly deserving group of students.

I would call that the "Florida way."

That's all I'm saying.

Weatherford must back words with action for in-state tuition bill 01/29/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 3:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Shakeup on Adam Putnam campaign


    In a sign of unsteadiness for what  had  looked like a strong-out-of-the-gate Adam Putnam campaign, the Republican frontrunner suddenly fired his campaign manager and political director. Hard-charging Campaign manager Kristin Davis and political director Jared Small were two of the three outsiders to join …

    Putnam campaigning in Destin the other day as part of his 22-city bus tour
  2. Rays let early lead get away again in loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As pleased as the Rays were to win consecutive series against the contending Red Sox, Indians and Yankees and to get briefly back over .500, there was a lot of talk in the clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels that it was time to do better.

    Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) high fives designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) as he rounds third on his lead off home run in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  3. Tampa man arrested for killing man in his USF-area home


    TAMPA — A Tampa man was arrested Monday in the death of man found killed at a home in the University of South Florida area last week, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Kadeem Dareem Archibald, 26, was arrested Monday on a  second degree murder charge in the University Area killing of Khando Kerr. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Report: Trump asked intel chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence


    President Donald Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, the Washington Post reports, citing current and former officials.

    From  left, CIA Director Mike Pompeo; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers take their seats on Capitol Hill on May 11 before  testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on major threats facing the U.S. [Associated Press]
  5. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”