Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala's bill that would provide in-state tuition to children of people who came into the country illegally barely survived a committee vote this morning, with four of his fellow Republicans opposing the measure.
Those no votes included fellow Pinellas County Republican Jeff Brandes, along with Fort Myers based Lizbeth Benacquisto, who is also running in the special congressional election to succeed Trey Radel. She made headlines by issuing a statement before the committee debated the issue, saying
, “SB 1400 creates incentives for illegal immigration and I will vote no when it comes to a vote in the Senate Education Committee this morning,” she said.
The Florida Democratic Party pounced on Benaquisto's comment, saying it revealed the GOP's "true colors."
""While Republicans may think their pandering will play well in November, Benacquisto’s rejection of this commonsense proposal shows that the GOP will abandon Florida’s Dreamers whenever they need appeal to Republican primary voters," Christian Ulvert, Florida Democratic Party Political Director said in a statement. "Unfortunately for Scott and Florida GOP, Florida’s Hispanic community won’t forget Rick Scott’s record of putting the needs of his Tea Party base ahead of what’s best for the Hispanic community."
Senator Brandes said in his comments that “this body just passed tuition for military veterans. These people have gone above and beyond, have sacrificed for our country. Now, we are debating giving the same reward and the same treatment to undocumented students who have not reached that same high bar.”
The ability for a bill to make it to the floor of the House or Senate depends on it getting through committees however. And the fact is is that Manatee County GOP Senator Bill Galvano, who also voted no on the bill today, chairs the Senate Education Appropriations Committee, which, as Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald reports
, is where the bill headed to next. She reports that Galvano has not decided whether the bill should be brought up for a vote or not.
House Speaker Will Weatherford is a major proponent of the legislation, though whether his caucus is behind him has yet to be determined. Senate President Don Gaetz is not in favor of the bill.
Governor Rick Scott, after taking his time to "consider" the bill, now supports it, though like Medicaid expansion, he hasn't done much advocating for it to this point.