Last year, State Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) gave his word to House Education chairman Harry Brooks that he would not try to change state law that currently says taxpayer subsidized in-state tuition is a state benefit. White made that promise with regard to his bill HB660 which removed in-state tuition from the current state law definition of “state or local public benefit” so that it could be provided to illegal immigrants.
This year, White has broken that promise by filing a new bill, HB2429 which combines parts of the two in-state tuition bills he sponsored last year, including the section that would redefine “state or local public benefit.”
The first in-state tuition bill that White tried to pass last year, HB863, failed to pass the Education Committee in a close 7-6 vote.
White deferred his second bill HB660, to the current session. When White first introduced this bill in the Education Subcommittee, Chairman Harry Brooks questioned the section removing in-state tuition from being a state benefit as currently contained in state law. White gave his word that he would amend that section out if the bill was allowed to go before the full Education Committee.
The bill failed to pass the Education committee for lack of a majority on a 6-6 vote. Sensing that he could not overcome the required procedural hurdle to support a motion for the committee to reconsider their action on the bill, White elected to move HB660 bill to the 2018 session.
White’s Senate counterpart Todd Gardenhire is also committed to securing in-state tuition for illegal alien students even if it requires setting a precedent for providing state benefits to illegal aliens. This year, however, their companion bills are following a different course than in prior years.
Each of Gardenhire’s bills in prior years, have been passed first by the Senate Education Committee by a majority vote well before White has moved his bill through the House committee process and this year looked to be the same. Gardenhire’s bill, SB2263, was scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee on March 7, but inexplicably, has been moved to the committee’s final calendar possibly signaling a shift in the Senate on the issue.
White’s bill is on the House Education Subcommittee calendar for Tuesday, March 13. This year’s White/Gardenhire bills are the broadest in scope of any they have filed trying to secure in-state tuition for illegal alien students.
White HB660 and Gardenhire’s 2017 bill which passed the Senate Education Committee are still pending although have not been scheduled for any further action.
Tennessee Star polling of likely Republican primary voters opposed to providing taxpayer subsidized in-state college tuition to illegal immigrant students increased between June to December 2017, from 84 percent to 88 percent–while support has decreased–from 11 percent to 6 percent.