For the fourth year in a row, Chattanooga-area State Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), a Republican, has tried and failed to pass a bill that would grant in-state tuition discounts to illegal alien students in Tennessee.
Calling his defeat a “victim of election-year politics,” he told the Times Free Press, “It’s my understanding that the House leadership doesn’t want to schedule it for a vote in the House Education Committee,” adding that the Senate leadership wanted to wait until the bill passed in the House before taking it up.
Gardenhire spoke bitterly of his fellow Republican lawmakers, telling the Times, “The House for a third year in a row has killed it under the leadership of Beth Harwell.”
Turning his ire to the gubernatorial candidates who publicly opposed his proposal, the said this year’s failure was “very disappointing when you’ve got all four [Republican] gubernatorial candidates against it and one of them in particular, Diane Black, being personal about it.”
Upon hearing the news of the bill’s demise for this year’s legislative session, Black tweeted:
— Diane Black (@DianeBlackTN) March 28, 2018
The Times reported:
The issue of in-state tuition has become a quest for Gardenhire who has advanced what he considers conservative arguments in favor of it, saying the students are already in Tennessee and aren’t going anywhere. Thus, he says, their ability to obtain technical or university degrees will allow them to earn more, lead more productive lives and result in their being less of a societal and economic burden.
Gardenhire in 2015 got the original bill through the Senate, but it failed on the House floor by a single vote. Speaker Harwell was out of the chamber at the time but said she would have voted against it.
The bill was originally tied to students’ participation in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which granted administrative relief to eligible immigrant youths brought to the U.S. as children.
But the issue has become more complicated with the election of President Donald Trump who jettisoned the DACA program with the program now entangled in back and forth disagreements between Trump and congressional Democrats on other immigration issues.
Tennessee Star / Triton polling consistently shows that Tennessee’s Republican primary voters are solidly opposed to extending the in-state tuition benefit to illegal aliens:
In the six months between the June 2017 Tennessee Star Poll and the December 2017 Tennessee Star Poll, opposition to in-state tuition for illegal immigrant students among likely Tennessee Republican primary voters has actually increased–from 84 percent to 88 percent–while support has decreased–from 11 percent to 6 percent.