The Florida House voted Friday to approve a bill to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition, ending a decade-long battle to pass the measure in the Florida Sate Legislature.
The bill now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who already said he plans to sign it into law.
The Florida House voted 84-32 to approve HB 851, which makes undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition if they attend a Florida high school for at least three years and graduate. The House vote came a day after the Senate approved the bill on a 26-13 vote.
For House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel), passing the bill was a priority. Following the vote on Friday, he thanked state lawmakers for approving the bill.
I believe that we all answer to a higher authority one day, and I believe its also up to us to fight for the injustices of our time, to recognize that higher authority, he said. I believe that we did that today, and I believe we did it yesterday. Im so proud of this chamber for doing it. Thank you for standing with me.
Last minute amendments to HB 851 were proposed Friday but none were approved.
Among the proposed amendments was one to require undocumented students to register for selective service in order to be eligible for in-state tuition. Another one sought to allow undocumented youth benefiting from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to get drivers license, although Dreamers with DACA are already able to do so in Florida.
Rep. Jeanette Nuñez (R-Miami), the lead sponsor of HB 851 , called the amendments unfriendly. She explained that if approved, the amendments would send the bill back to the Senate and jeopardize the bills chances of passing with only a few hours left before the end of the legislative session.
Rep. Hazelle Rogers (D-Lauderdale Lakes) agreed with Nuñez.
Members, we have come a long way, and Im not willing to take a chance and I dont think the Dreamers want us to take a chance on sending this bill back to the Senate, Rogers said on the House floor.
Rogers remarks generated some applause from a group of Dreamers who were in the chamber, waiting for the House to vote on HB 851. Nanci Palacios, a 25-year-old Dreamer, was among them.
After the House vote, Palacios told VOXXI she felt a sense of relief to see that HB 851 is now heading to the governors desk for a signature. She also spoke about what the bill means for undocumented students in Florida.
A lot of students whove been out of school for so long and have been waiting to go back to college are finally going to be able to do so, she said. The people who are graduating and thought they werent going to be able to go to college will now have that opportunity.
If Scott signs HB 851 into law, the bill will take effect July 1 of this year.