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Florida Senate quietly advances immigrant tuition bill to the floor

One of the most controversial bills of the session is on its way to becoming law.

In the most quiet of ways on Tuesday, members of the Florida Senate agreed to hear a bill that would allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates at Florida colleges and universities.

The proposal is likely to pass. Twenty-one of the 40 senators have publicly expressed their support. Another three have voted for the bill in previous committee stops.

Advancing the bill to the Senate floor was heavy lift for its sponsor, Sen. Jack Latvala.

Earlier this month, Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, had used a procedural maneuver to block the proposal from moving through the legislative process. Latvala's later attempts at adding the language to separate bills failed.

But on Tuesday, powerful Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher motioned to waive the Senate rules so that the immigrant tuition bill (HB 851) could be considered.

Senate President Don Gaetz asked if there were any objections. There were none.

Gaetz approved the motion and moved on with the agenda.

Gaetz, R-Niceville, opposes the bill. But he had said he would not stop it from reaching the Senate floor.

Latvala expects a hearing Wednesday and a vote Thursday.

The version that will be considered has the support of the House and Gov. Rick Scott, Latvala said.