Judge Refuses to Dismiss Matching Gifts Case Involving College Donations

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          A Leon County circuit judge Thursday refused to dismiss a case alleging the state has failed to properly provide hundreds of millions of dollars in matching funds for donations to universities and state colleges.

          University of Florida graduates and Florida State University donors last year filed now-combined class action lawsuits contending, in part, that the state violated contractual obligations by failing to match donations to programs that pay for campus facilities and scholarships.

          The Legislature cut back on funding for the matching-grant programs during the recession and then suspended the programs in 2011.

          The plaintiffs in the case argue that has left hundreds of millions of dollars in donations unmatched.

          State lawyers sought dismissal of the case, arguing last month that separation of powers prevents a judge from ordering the Legislature to come up with money to match the donations.

          But in a seven-page order Thursday, Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson refused to dismiss the case.

          Dodson wrote that the matching-funds statutes “do not involve policy decisions.

          The policy decisions were made when those statutes were enacted into law.

          According to the allegations of the complaints, the matching funds statutes simply provide that the state will match private contributions as outlined in the formulas stated within the statutes.”

          Dodson’s order does not resolve the underlying legal dispute but allows the case to move forward.

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