Bill reducing tuition for undocumented students picks up GOP support

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Colorado Capitol

Colorado Capitol

DENVER — House Speaker Frank McNulty ended the suspense and assigned a controversial bill to reduce college tuition for undocumented students to not one but two committees, meaning both GOP-controlled panels will have to approve the measure for it to reach the House floor.

McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, sent Senate Bill 15 to the House Education Committee, where it died last year but appears poised to get the go-ahead this year now that Chairman Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, is on board; and, should it survive there, it’ll head to the House Appropriations Committee, where its fate is less certain.

“Good news for fair hearing,” tweeted the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, on Thursday afternoon.

Johnson and other supporters had worried that the bill could get assigned to three committees, with House Finance the other possibility; now they hope to build momentum upon passing the House Education Committee and find a swing vote among one of the Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee in order to get the bill to the House floor, where Massey’s vote alone would be enough to ensure it’s ultimate passage.

Johnston hopes that those GOP lawmakers will be swayed by the Republican support he continues to line up outside the State Capitol.

On Thursday morning, McNulty and other lawmakers received a letter from several high-profile Republicans urging them to support S.B. 15, dubbed “Colorado ASSET” by supporters.

“The Republican Party is the Party of Opportunity, because it stands for individual empowerment, and not government reliance,” the letter states. “Access to higher education is a fundamental source of individual empowerment.

“We do not ask that anyone get subsidized tuition. We do seek to remove unnecessary obstacles to individual opportunity. One of those obstacles is the exorbitant rate of tuition at our institutions of higher education for out-of-state students. In particular, charging these unjustifiably high rates for individuals who through residency in Colorado are in fact taxpayers makes no economic sense and is just needlessly punitive,” the letter continues.

The letter is signed by Colorado Forum and Colorado Succeeds, which represent the top business interests in the state.