A federal court in Miami ruled last month that Florida can no longer charge out-of-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants if the students themselves are legal residents. The judge ruled that the practice conflicts with the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution, which says people in similar circumstances shall be treated comparably. The lawsuit was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of five South Florida students whose parents are undocumented. Children of illegal immigrants have won similar cases in other states, including New Jersey and California. Florida’s Department of Education is currently reviewing the impact of the ruling.
The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments in early September about the constitutionality of a 2011 law that would require teachers, firefighters, police and other government workers to pay a three percent salary contribution into the state retirement system. Lawmakers argued that the change was needed to fill a budget gap and to bring Florida in line with 47 other states, which require government workers to contribute to their pensions. A date for the ruling has not been announced.
In late August, the Florida Department of State agreed to a settlement regarding Florida voter registration. The requirement that new voters’ registration forms be submitted to the state within 48 hours of being signed was dropped, effectively restoring the previous 10-day deadline. The requirement that third-party registration groups be identified on the forms will remain. As a result of the settlement, those organizations such as the League of Women Voters, who had suspended registration drives, resumed their activities across the state.
Florida is moving ahead with a plan to privatize nearly 3,000 jobs in the state’s prisons. The Legislative Budget Commission in September approved a proposal to spend nearly $58 million to privatize prison health care operations by January 2013. State legislators in 2011 approved the privatization effort by adding language to the state budget instead of passing stand-alone legislation. That sparked a court case, but the judge declared the case over in July because the provision had expired at the end of June. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and a union that represents health care workers filed a lawsuit arguing that the legislative panel does not have the legal authority to approve the change.