Florida Five: Immigrant tuition plan barely passes committee, Election complaints target Crist billboards

Five of today’s top Florida political stories at your fingertips:

Immigrant tuition proposal barely passes Senate Education Committee: The immigrant tuition bill narrowly won the support of the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday –- but significant challenges remain ahead.The proposal, which would allow some undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates at Florida colleges and universities, received a favorable vote after Education Committee Chairman John Legg and bill sponsor Sen. Jack Latvala made a number of revisions. Among the changes: the removal of language allowing undocumented students to be considered “residents for tuition purposes.” The bill now seeks to grant partial tuition waivers to undocumented students. The change was important, Legg explained last week, because it will prevent undocumented students from receiving benefits other than tuition. Another revision will lock in the current in-state residency percentage so undocumented students do not push out Florida residents. Read more.

drinking driving 2Controversy swirls around program to keep drunks off road:  The Florida program aimed at keeping impaired drivers off the road is ensnared in legal challenges, a bidding war and criticism from vendors who say the state isn’t doing what it should to keep drunks from getting behind the wheel. Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Julie Jones insists the state’s DUI program, which includes a voluntary, intensive abstinence-based program, is a model for the nation.But one vendor who wants to expand the use of devices that keep vehicles from starting when a driver has been drinking contends that the state’s efforts are a dismal failure. More than 10,000 of the devices are now in use by Florida drivers, most of whom have been convicted of driving under the influence at least twice. Read more. 

Florida Senate passes $395 million vehicle registration fee rollback: The Florida Senate unanimously passed a significant tax cut on Tuesday which reduces annual vehicle registration fees by nearly $400 million. Senate Bill 156 cuts certain motor vehicle registration fees to what was paid prior to 2009, resulting in an average savings of $25 per vehicle. Overall, the measure reduces fees by $395 million.“For the second consecutive year, the Senate has overwhelmingly supported Sen. Negron’s proposal to roll back vehicle fees and give broad-based tax relief to every Floridian who drives a car or truck,” said Senate President Don Gaetz. “This bill is the centerpiece of the $500 million ‘It’s Your Money’ tax cut which Gov.Scott, Speaker Weatherford and I are committed to passing this year.” The legislation is likely to pass in the House, having sailed through the Finance & Tax Subcommittee last week. Read more.

Election complaints filed against Rick Scott and Charlie Crist: Democrats and Republicans exchanged electoral complaints in the Florida gubernatorial race this week.Earlier this month, Let’s Get to Work was charliecristmorganandmorgan-sunshinestatenewsdissolved and its funds forwarded to a new group backing Scott. Tant and the Florida Democrats are looking to make an issue of the transfer even as Scott’s team insists it was entirely legal. The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) fired back on Tuesday, as it lodged a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission regarding how trial attorney firm Morgan & Morgan is running billboards across the state featuring former Gov. Charlie Crist’s face plastered on them. The ads usually offer generic public service announcements ranging from thanking teachers to urging people not to text and drive. Read more. 

House slashes affordable housing in bid to spend more on public safety, transportation: The House released details on its $11.5 billion budget on transportation, tourism and economic development on Tuesday, and it’s heavy on spending for road projects, public safety and cultural projects, but skimpy on spending for affordable housing.“Great efforts were made to further the safety and security of our citizens,” said the chairman of the House appropriations committee on transportation and economic development, Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater. Read more. 

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