Legislation that would have delivered full-ride Bright Futures scholarships to Florida's top high school graduates has been vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott, prompting criticism from lawmakers who are accusing Scott of breaking a promise to support the measure.

  • Gov. Scott says he vetoed SB 374 because it reined in state college degree programs
  • Bill also expanded Bright Futures, bringing back free rides for top students
  • Scott said lawmakers should revisit Bright Futures next year

In vetoing SB 374 last week, the governor said his decision was driven by a section of the bill that would have capped the growth of bachelor degree programs at community colleges, now formally known as state colleges.

"This interference impedes the ability of state colleges to meet the needs of the communities and families they serve," Scott wrote in his veto message.

But his action will also have the effect of impeding the ability of Bright Futures recipients to graduate debt-free. The program currently covers roughly half of tuition and fees at state universities for top-tier recipients. Not only would the legislation have covered 100 percent of tuition; students would have been able to spend part of their Bright Futures awards on summer classes, an option not currently available.

"He agreed to our summer Bright Futures," Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said this month of a pledge he had exacted from Scott.

The governor, however, has a history of switching positions -- his about-face on Medicaid expansion in 2015 is the most oft-cited example around the Capitol's halls of power. The Bright Futures expansion fell victim to his latest change of heart.

"I fundamentally disagree that SB 374 makes positive changes to our universities at the expense of Florida’s community colleges," Negron said in a statement after the bill was vetoed.

The bill could have saved the typical undergraduate Bright Futures recipient an additional $13,000 over the course of four years, a significant sum that could play into an effort to revive the legislation next year.

"I wouldn't riot about this at the moment, as my college career's coming to an end," said Alexandra Kulu, an Florida State University senior majoring in finance. "If I was in a different situation personally, maybe I would have to reevaluate."

In his veto message, the governor noted a temporary expansion of the Bright Futures will still occur this year.

"I urge the Legislature to pass legislation that revisits these issues and expands Bright Futures Scholarships permanently while recognizing the importance of both our state colleges and universities in the 2018 Legislative Session," Scott wrote.