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Bill advances to split USF-Poly off immediately | News

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Bill advances to split USF-Poly off immediately
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A civil debate turned fiery Thursday afternoon when State Sen. JD Alexander, the chamber's budget chairman, faced off against his critics in the debate to create a 12th Florida university.

The Senate overwhelming approved the plan that ignores the pathway to independence the Board of Goverors (BOG) laid out for USF-Polytechnic in November.  Alexander, R-Lake Wales, who has long pushed for Polk County to have its own major university, is lobbying for immediate separation from the USF system.

READ: Deal reached to reduce USF cuts
READ:
10 News poll on USF budget cuts

Only four senators voted against the proposal to split USF-Poly off into "Florida Polytechnic" immediately, which will advance to conference with the House.

Opposing the bill were: Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland; Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey; Greg Evers, R-Crestview; and Steve Oelrich, R-Gainesville.

"When (the polytechnic) goes independent, USF, which has been teaching in Polk Co since the 80s, will go away," Dockery warned of a quick separation.  "And all we will have is a polytechnic, which may eventually fill up the land.  But where will the students come from?"

Fasano, with the precision of a prosecuter, opened debate on the bill with questions critical of the BOG snub. 

"Any reason we need legistlation when the Board of Governers has already addressed the issue?" Fasano asked.  "I need to understand why we're creating a 12th university at a time we're struggling with our budget, our revenue, our dollars."

Oelrich, the chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, expressed concern the bill bypassed the traditional vetting process, which would have included his committee.  It was passed as a conforming bill so it didn't have as many obstacles on its way to the Senate floor.

But Alexander downplayed concerns and lashed out against critics toward the end of the debate.  He said he wasn't ignoring the BOG's plan, simply creating new fiduciary supervision for the polytechnic because he had "no confidence in the USF leadership to execute the will of the Board of Governors in this effort."

Alexander also implied USF President Judy Genshaft was a hypocrite for her criticisms of former USF-Poly Chancellor Marshall Goodman's spending habits.  He mentioned Genshaft's trips to Switzerland and New York to interview a potential USF-Poly employee.

The bill now heads to the House, where it is expected to see significant resistance.  Governor Rick Scott has also indicated he'd like to see the state follow the Board of Governor's lead on the issue, not Alexander's.

Previous USF Coverage:
2/23/12 Deal reached to reduce USF cuts
2/22/12 -
JD Alexander: from USF cheerleader to USF critic
2/22/12 - USF-Poly accreditation will take 2-4 years
2/22/12 - Polk Commission upset about being kept in dark
2/21/12 - USF-Poly students fear split
2/21/12 - USF students launch grass-roots campaign
2/20/12 -
Genshaft, Alexander meeting "productive" but secretive
2/20/12 - College student warned of Alexander revenge
2/17/12 - Democrats propose alternative to college cuts
2/16/12 - Gov. Scott tells 10 News he opposes unfair cuts
2/15/12 - Budget cuts live, but ''divorce settlement'' brokered
2/14/12 - 10 News leading charge to #SaveUSF
2/14/12 - High school students impacted by USF attacks
2/14/12 - USF fears "devastating" 58% budget cuts
2/8/12 - JD Alexander pushes "backdoor" path for USF-Poly independence
12/22/11 - Barbs traded over Genshaft's handling of USF-Poly handling
12/20/11 - Genshaft dismisses USF-Poly chancellor
11/10/11 - BOG grants USF-Poly conditional independence
11/7/11 - USF-Poly spends thousands on Star Wars statues
11/3/11 - JD Alexander's bully pulpit

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.

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