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Undocumented student tuition bill advances to House | News

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Undocumented student tuition bill advances to House
News, Politics

DENVER — The controversial measure to offer a reduced rate of college tuition for undocumented students who live in Colorado is finally out of the senate and in Speaker Frank McNulty’s hands.

The senate, where the bill had been in a holding pattern for two months, finally voted Monday to send Senate Bill 15 on to the GOP-controlled House.

That’s where a similar proposal died last year, after McNulty assigned it to the House Education Committee, which voted it down on party-lines.

This year’s version, which creates a third category of tuition in between in- and out-of-state tuition and also allows for colleges and universities to opt out, may have the votes to get out of the House Education Committee, where the chairman, Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, has signaled his support.

The question is whether McNulty sends it back there, knowing that doing so may enable the bill to make it to the House floor for a vote by all 65 members.

The bill is likely to be introduced in the House as early as Wednesday, when a committee assignment could be revealed.

When asked, McNulty has repeatedly promised only that “the bill will get a fair hearing.”

But the looming election is a major consideration.

The political calculation: whether letting the proposal pass will help GOP candidates widen their appeal to Latino voters, or if it’s too risky, given the potential backlash from more conservative voters.

Political analyst Eric Sondermann notes that a similar decision looms over the proposal to recognize civil unions in Colorado, which is also in a holding pattern in the Senate but soon headed to the House.

“Speaker Frank McNulty has telling decisions to make with respect to the committee assignment for two high-profile bills,” he said. “He can choose to send either or both to committees where there is a prospect of a swing Republican vote or to what are veritable ‘kill’ committees from which these bills will never emerge.

“In making these calls, McNulty has to weigh what many believe to be in the Republican Party’s long-term strategic interest of removing these issues from the November debate and softening the Party’s toxic image among these audiences versus what might be in his personal political interests by not crossing the loudest voices among his Party’s activist conservative base.”

Whereas last year’s legislation would have offered undocumented students unsubsidized in-state tuition, the re-worked S.B. 15 would create a third category of tuition altogether for qualifying undocumented students who have completed three years at a Colorado high school and graduated in good standing

Although the bill would allow colleges and universities not to offer the third rate of tuition if they so choose, nearly every institution of higher education in the state has already expressed support for the legislation; among them are the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, the University of Denver and the state’s community college system.

News, Politics

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