Rep. Mark White’s (R-Memphis) second bill, HB660, that if left unamended, would have allowed the governing boards of state colleges and universities to grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrant students, failed in the House Education committee for lack of a majority on a 6-6 vote.
During committee testimony, the TN Board of Regents lobbyist explained that for their institutions, this bill was about revenue – filling seats in their schools and being able to make their own rules about border state recruiting. The UT lobbyist explained that flexibility in being able to offer in-state tuition as part of the universities’ business model could be more beneficial than the revenue generated by out-of-state tuition.
In sponsoring this bill, Rep. White wanted to uniformly expand the authority of the new school governing boards that were created by the Governor’s FOCUS Act, but White also used the bill as an opportunity to have a second bite at the apple to give illegal immigrant students access to in-state tuition should his other bill, HB863 fail to pass. That bill was defeated in the House Education committee yesterday.
During an earlier House Education subcommittee hearing, concern was raised by Chairman Harry Brooks, as to whether Section 5 of the bill would allow the school governing boards to offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrant students because that section removes the paying of in-state tuition from being a state benefit as currently contained in state law. White confirmed that it would be left to the individual schools to decide whether they wanted to “go in that direction.”
During today’s full House Education committee hearing, Rep. Mark White amended Section 5 out of his bill although he commented that the amended bill would not do what he originally intended.
However, Rep. Dawn White raised the concern that the companion bill to HB660 sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire had already passed the Senate Education committee including Section 5 and questioned whether the two bills would ultimately be reconciled putting Section 5 back into the final bill.
Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, citing the delegation of authority and questioned the constitutionality of the delegation, said this bill starts a “slippery slope” and is really a “trojan horse” for future erosion of what is appropriate legislative oversight over the unelected school governing boards.
When asked, the committee’s legal counsel side-stepped the question of whether the delegation of authority to the school governing boards was unconstitutional and instead, referenced that any rules made by the school boards would still have to be vetted by the legislature’s Government Operations committee.
Rep. Ron Lollar, agreeing with Rep. Weaver’s assessment of the bill said simply, “we need to do our jobs.”
Rep. Roger Kane was concerned that rules passed by the school governing boards on in-state tuition, because it is a state benefit, be given the most stringent filter which he believed was best achieved by the Education committee.