For those who follow the intrigue of internal legislative politics, the Wednesday designation of Sen. Joe Negron as the Republican nominee for Senate president will bring an end to a fascinating drama that featured everything from betrayal, to whispers of cross-party courtships to the supposed root cause of the dysfunction that had permeated the Senate as it lurched from a budget crisis to a redistricting crisis to... you name it.
Negron, as Tallahassee insiders know, was able to obtain the presidency over Sen. Jack Latvala. A deal that resulted in Latvala bowing out - while he got the nod as the next appropriations chairman - was announced in early November.
There's no doubt that a Latvala presidency would have been an interesting sight - especially given his admonitions at times to some of the top employees of the administration of Gov. Rick Scott.
But the elevation of Negron may bring its own drama to watch.
And that's because it appears that the 54-year-old Stuart attorney may be willing to challenge the current game plan for Florida's universities that has been advocated by the governor.
Scott's foray into Florida's higher education universe has been one that has created conflicts, controversy and finally acquiescence from GOP legislators and university officials.
Some of Scott's initial efforts - like the time he urged then Florida A&M University President James Ammons be suspended during an ongoing investigation into the hazing related death of drum major Robert Champion - were met with fierce resistance.
Scott in 2012 backed the creation of the stand-alone Florida Polytechnic University despite being urged by his own chief of staff to veto the bill.
Scott also played a role in the decision to keep Bernie Machen on as University of Florida president. Machen had planned to step down at the end of 2013 but said he was persuaded by Scott to remain on board longer because the governor would help him elevate UF. This came a few months after Scott had vetoed a bill to aid both UF and Florida State University because it would have given both schools additional powers to raise tuition above limits set in state law. What was odd about the entire incident is that emails show that UF trustees were on the verge of naming a new president just days before it was announced Machen was staying.
Scott has also been firm about lowering Florida's debt obligations - and that has meant he has been opposed to issuing bonds for such traditional uses as new university buildings (a move that has perplexed university trustees). He also gone along with efforts to incorporate performance funding into university appropriations.
But Scott's chief mantra when it comes to higher education is that Florida should do everything possible to keep the cost of higher education as low as possible - saying it should remain affordable because residents need a college education to get a decent job.
He's pushed colleges to create low-cost degree programs. The Republican governor has also since 2012 engaged in a unwavering battle against tuition hikes. Scott began calling tuition hikes a form of a tax hike and he pushed legislators to roll back a state law adopted under then Gov. Charlie Crist that was intended to give universities the ability to raise tuition without having to get annual approval from the Florida Legislature.
In the beginning, then House Speaker Will Weatherford resisted Scott on tuition. During one visit to the Board of Governors _ the panel that oversees the state university system _ he even held up a cellphone and said that students were paying more for their bills then for tuition. But Weatherford finally gave way to Scott and during the session ahead of the 2014 elections he backed the legislation that eliminated the ability of most universities - save UF and FSU - from being able to raise tuition on their own.
After winning that battle, Scott has forged onward even trying unsuccessfully in 2015 to place limits on graduate student tuition.
But Negron appears ready to change the conversation away from costs and instead focus on it on long-term goals.
He plans on Wednesday to outline his steps to make Florida's universities "national destination elite universities" that attract out-of-state students in the way that University of North Carolina and University of Michigan do.
"I’m laying down a marker that universities are a priority," said Negron this week. "I think Florida has made great progress, but I think when you look at states like North Carolina and Virginia I think we can help our universities get to the next level."
Negron, who put three kids through college including two who attended UF and FSU, said he views universities as "indispensable" to creating an "economically vital state."
Negron's concerns about higher education aren't necessarily new. He was the main force behind a move to limit the ability of state colleges to start offering four-year degree programs which Negron labeled "mission creep" by schools who initially started out as only offering two-year degrees.
Among the things that Negron says he wants to do is help universities recruit and retain faculty and make sure the state's graduate schools have what they need to compete nationally.
Of course, all of these things would cost more money. The two main sources for Florida's public universities are tuition or increased state support and that''s where things get complicated.
Negron, who was at one time the Senate budget chief, says he believes there is enough money already in the budget to increase funding to universities.
But he also has a difference of opinion about tuition.
"I agree we want to make sure a university education is affordable," Negron said. "But Florida has one of the lowest tuition rates in the country...Getting a four-year degree is very reasonable."
Negron is expected to give more details on his plans during his designation speech. The key question will be, however, whether Negron's push will open yet another battlefront in a never-ending tug-of-war with the governor.