EDUCATION LAWS UNCONSTITUTIONAL? - Amy Snider

06/23/03

Florida legislators passed laws regarding higher education last week that some legal experts say are unconstitutional. WMNF’s Amy Snider has the story:

During last week’s special session of the Florida legislature, state lawmakers passed a law allowing public universities to charge a non-refundable $200 college student admissions fee. The law also caps university presidents’ salaries at $225,000. The budget passed last week allows public universities to raise tuition by 8.5%.

But some legal experts say it is the job of the newly created Board of Governors to oversee higher education. The Board of Governors was created after Florida voters passed Amendment 11 to the State Constitution. Amendment 11 states that the Board of Govs “shall operate, regulate, control and be fully responsible for the management of the whole university system.�

Amendment 11 reversed Governor Jeb Bush’s measure, which eliminated the Board of Regents and combined the oversight of the state university system with K-12 and community colleges.

Amendment 11 was dubbed the Graham amendment, as former Governor and US Senator – now presidential candidate - Bob Graham was the amendment’s leading proponent. Graham’s campaign treasurer, Lake Wales Attorney Robin Gibson, told today’s Palm Beach Post that he thinks the education laws passed by the Legislature are unconstitutional.

Representative Frank Farkas of St. Petersburg serves on the House Higher Education Subcommittee. He says that because the Board of Governors is so new, its role was unclear.. Farkas describes what he sees as the Board of Governor’s role:

But, are tuition and admissions fees in legislature’s purview?

Similar disputes in other states have been decided in court, as State Supreme Courts in Oklahoma, California, and Montana have ruled against the legislatures and for educational oversight Boards created by Constitutional amendment.

St. Petersburg Representative Frank Farkas says that since the legislature approves the state budget, which includes appropriations for public universities, the recently passed legislation is indeed in the legislature’s purview.

Farkas

E.T. York, chancellor emeritus of the State University System, told the Palm Beach Post that a number of prominent people, including lawyers, want to challenge actions taken by the legislature and the governor.

WMNF was unsuccessful in attempting to speak to members of the Board of Governors..Published reports indicate that the 17 member body has met only twice since being selected…….

For WMNF news, this is Amy Snider.

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