In-state tuition measure clears Senate, heads to the House

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Students attend a press conference in support of ASSET, a proposal to lower college tuition for undocumented students, at the Capitol earlier this year.

DENVER — On Friday, Sen. Mike Johnston thanked lawmakers who had sponsored in-state tuition measures in the past for “carrying the ball to the one-yard line” as the full Senate debated the ASSET bill, which may help as many as 1,000 undocumented Coloradans afford college.

On Monday, after the Senate’s final 23-12 vote in favor of Senate Bill 33, sending the bill to the House for consideration, Johnston likened the moment to a high school senior’s final game on the gridiron.

“It’s kind of like taking off my cleats for the last time on this one,” he said, recognizing that legislation that was first introduced 13 years ago is a slam-dunk to become law this year.

The lack of drama surrounding the bill’s political journey might have explained the fact that there were no TV cameras on the Senate floor Monday morning — and just one, FOX31 Denver’s, there to record last Friday’s second reading debate.

“It’s not as much of a fight this year, but it’s just as big of an impact,” Johnston said.

“For me personally, there’s no more significant bill that I’ve worked on that’s going to make an actual impact on human beings. Literally, there are going to be cell phones, text messages lighting up in classrooms across Colorado from kids saying, ‘This passed, this is a reality’.”

Johnston noted that Monday’s votes marked the first time any Republican lawmaker has supported an in-state tuition measure.

After speaking in support of the proposal on the Senate floor Friday, Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, and Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, cast their official yes votes on ASSET Monday.

“I’ve met so many of these kids who will benefit from this law,” said Brophy, the only one of the three supporting Republicans who’s cast votes against ASSET in the past.

“And I really changed my mind after hearing Republicans talking about self-deportation. We can’t ask these kids to go home. They are home. They’re at home in Wray. They’re at home in Burlington.

“They’re not going to leave the country, and if they’re not going to leave, then we ought to afford them the opportunities of America: get an education, make a lot of money and start being a taxpayer.”

The bill is scheduled to be heard by the House Education Committee Wednesday afternoon.

Last year, the bill died in that committee, which was then controlled by Republicans, on a party-line vote.

With Democrats now holding a 37-28 overall House majority, the ASSET bill is certain to clear committee and pass on the floor.

Gov. John Hickenlooper supports the measure and is expected to sign it into law some time in March.