Monday, December 11, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: In-state tuition bill in Scott's hands

Only Gov. Rick Scott can salvage the dreams of thousands of undocumented high school students whose only hope to afford college is being allowed to pay in-state tuition. Only the governor has the stature and political leverage to force the Senate to take up this issue of fundamental fairness that the House already has approved. Only the governor can dictate the outcome of legislation that would help him politically and stop penalizing students who already are succeeding in our local schools and communities.

Scott supports the Senate bill, SB 1400, that would enable illegal immigrants who have graduated from Florida high schools to pay in-state tuition. He sent out a news release Friday that he is joined in support by former Republican Govs. Bob Martinez and Jeb Bush. (He didn't mention former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned-Democrat and candidate for governor who also supports in-state tuition for these students.) But it is going to take more from Scott than news releases to get this legislation back on track.

Two unenlightened Republicans, Senate President Don Gaetz of Niceville and Budget Committee Chairman Joe Negron of Stuart, stand in the way. Gaetz opposes the bill but has said he would not block it if a majority of senators supported it. Yet with at least tacit approval from Gaetz, Negron refuses to schedule the bill to be heard in the last committee meeting Tuesday. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, probably has 25 votes for the bill in the 40-member Senate. This is a fight between two factions of the Republican Party, and some 175,000 undocumented high school students could be collateral damage.

Negron makes two fallacious arguments. He suggests allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition will hurt Floridians by costing universities tens of millions in higher out-of-state tuition. But it's unclear how many undocumented students would attend college. The House bill also requires that their university slots would come from those set aside for out-of-state students, not seats that would be taken by Floridians. Negron also contends colleges and universities can choose now to charge undocumented immigrants in-state tuition. Miami Dade College and Florida International University are doing it, but the University of Florida and other universities say that is illegal.

Only Scott has the political leverage to make Gaetz and Negron see the light. But it will take more personal attention to legislative maneuvering than the governor previously has shown. Scott supported accepting billions in Medicaid expansion money last year, then failed to lift a finger when the House refused to act. Now he faces the same situation with the Senate on an issue that could help his re-election bid and Republicans in general with Hispanic voters. Is this governor feckless or merely impotent when it comes to working the levers of his office and dealing with the Legislature?

Enabling undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition is a smart investment. Taxpayers already have underwritten their public education and helping them afford college would enable them to get better jobs and contribute more to their adopted home. The Senate has the votes to pass this legislation, and two stubborn senators playing their own political games should not be allowed to kill it. The governor has an opportunity to provide real leadership and demand action, or he can explain on the campaign trail why he is so ineffective at persuading fellow Republicans in the Legislature to vote for smart public policy that he supports.

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17