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Hickenlooper plans for 2013 session

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s education priorities for the 2013 General Assembly include possible legislation allowing colleges to ask voters for support through tax increases as well as support for a lower tuition rate for undocumented students, according to a briefing Thursday.

In addition, the governor is considering changes in college financial aid and the state’s teacher licensing system, David Archer, Hickenlooper’s deputy director of legislative affairs, told members of the Education Leadership Council, an appointed body that advises the governor on education policy.

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who chairs the council, made it clear – twice – that his boss also is interested in bipartisanship, regardless of the fact that fellow Democrats control both chambers.

“You know he’s very committed to working with both sides of the aisle and hopes that any piece of legislation that comes to his desk has bipartisan support,” he said. He reinforced that later in the meeting, saying, “The governor will be cautious about pushing for any bill that doesn’t have some Republican support.”

Archer gave the group a somewhat hasty briefing on administration education priorities.

He sparked the most discussion with the idea of a law that would allow colleges to ask voters in their communities for property or sales tax support in addition to their state funding. A bill to allow that failed in the legislature a few years ago.

Council member Nancy McCallin, president of the community college system, said she was concerned, “It would give the state an excuse not to fund certain colleges.”

Other council members wondered if such taxing power would create more inequities in the higher education system.

Garcia said, “It does bring new money into the system. … Why would we deny the schools that have that ability the right to do that?”

On another topic, McCallin asked, “I was kind of wondering where you’re coming from on the ASSET bill.” That measure, defeated several times in past legislatures, would create lower tuition rates for undocumented students.

“It’s likely to pass next year,” Garcia said. Hickenlooper supported the unsuccessful 2012 bill and Garcia said, “I suspect the administration’s position on this will be largely the same.”

On other issues, Archer said the administration was looking at possible changes in college financial aid, but “We’re not quite sure if we’re going to have a piece of legislation.”

He also said the administration is talking to people who are interested in changing the state’s teacher licensing system, but “We don’t know if we’re going to tackle the whole thing this year. … It’s a huge topic and something you can expect to hear more about.”

Archer also had a check-back-later message about reform of the school finance system, an issue expected to be raised by Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver.

“It’s something the governor talks to people about on a weekly basis, if not daily,” Archer said. “It’s really an ongoing conversation.”

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