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ASSET bill passes second test

The bill that would make undocumented students eligible for cheaper tuition at state colleges and universities passed a second Senate committee Tuesday, but not until after 90 minutes of sometimes obscure discussion.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 4-3 – Democrats for, Republicans against – to pass the bill on to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Senate Education Committee passed the bill last week on a 5-2 party-line vote after nearly three hours of testimony and debate (see story).

Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs

Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs

In contrast to the more free-ranging Senate Ed hearing, the Senate Finance meeting focused on financial issues such as whether colleges would make money from undocumented students and whether they would truly be unsubsidized.

The bill specifically uses the word “unsubsidized” because such students would not be eligible for College Opportunity Fund stipends, which are an off-the-top tuition discount for resident students. Undocumented students also would be ineligible for state need-based financial aid.

Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, challenged the concept of “unsubsidized,” arguing that undocumented students would be supported through the other method the state uses to fund colleges, called fee for service. The nominally distinct funding streams of stipends and fees for service are basically just devices to exempt higher education from Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights limitations.

King, sometimes known to his colleagues as “The Amendment King,” proposed five amendments to the bill. All were turned back by committee Democrats, joined on a couple of votes by Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray.

Legislative staff members have prepared a revised fiscal note, which raises the estimated annual tuition revenue from undocumented students to between $770,000 and $1.3 million a year.

In other action Tuesday:

  • The Senate gave final 26-8 approval to the young athlete concussion bill, Senate Bill 11-040.
  • The House approved final passage of House Bill 11-1126, which requires greater parent involvement in school turnaround plans. The House gave a preliminary OK to House Bill 11-1155, which would allow the lieutenant governor to also serve as director of a state agency.

“It gives the lieutenant governor something to do,” quipped House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch. Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia has been nominated to head the Department of Higher Education.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information