Perry Thurston was ‘out of place’ during immigrant tuition bill, supports the measure

Matt Dixon, (Mdixon55)

The House’s top Democrat said he did not vote on a much-anticipated bill offering in-state tuition to undocumented students because he was “out of place.”

When the vote was taken on the bill, HB 851, after lengthy debate, Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, was off the House floor and records show he was a “no” vote.

“I was just out of place, I’m totally in support of that bill,” he said.

It has been a big issue through the first three weeks of session, with rallies regularly held at the state Capitol in support of the measure. Similar legislation has been filed over the past 11 years, but never snagged enough momentum to pass.

The bill passed on an 81-33 vote, with all Democrats in support.

This year House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, made the bill one of his top priorities. Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said he opposes the bill, but will let it be heard in his chamber.

That chamber’s version passed its first committee stop on a near party-line vote, with the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, voting with Democrats in support.

Here is background on the bill and Thursday’s vote

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