In-state tuition bill quickly clears first House hearing

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DENVER — A proposal to give undocumented students in-state college tuition cleared its first House hearing Wednesday with little fanfare and bipartisan support.

Whereas past hearings on the so-called ASSET bill have drawn emotional testimony and taken hours to complete, Wednesday’s hearing before the House Education Committee was a relatively quick proceeding.

And, just two days after three Republican state senators became the first GOP lawmakers in Colorado history to vote yes on an in-state tuition measure, another Republican state representative voted to support the bill.

“Colorado needs more of the best and brightest,” said Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson. “My faith tells me this is the right thing to do for our state and the right policy for Colorado.”

Another Republican, one who’s spent 30 years as an educator, also voted to move the bill out of committee, despite uncertainty as to whether he’ll support it on the floor.

“I can make these students happy, and I can make the more productive, by voting for this, but I can’t make them Americans,” said Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida, a former superintendent, who also cast his committee vote in favor of the bill. “That frustrates me.

“I’m conflicted about this and I don’t know how I’ll vote, but I do believe this deserves to be debated on the House floor and so I will vote today to move it forward.”

Democrats on the House Education Committee, which passed on a vote of 9-4, took note of the historical journey of Senate Bill 33, which is certain to finally pass and be signed into law this year, 13 years after former state Rep. Val Vigil first introduced the legislation.

The legislation now heads to the House Appropriations Committee and then to the House floor, where Democrats hold a 37-28 majority.

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