In the House Education committee today, State Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) moved his second bill, HB660 that would legalize in-state tuition for illegal immigrant students in Tennessee, to the 2018 legislative session.
Last week when this bill failed in committee on a 6-6 vote, White indicated he would seek a motion for the committee to reconsider their action on the bill, but likely discovered that he could not overcome the required procedural hurdle. Moving his bill to 2018, allows him to avoid having the motion to reconsider fail, earning yet another strike against his campaign to secure in-state tuition for illegal immigrant students.
White’s first bill this year that would have granted in-state tuition to illegal immigrant students, HB863, was voted down in committee in a 7-6 vote. This bill closely tracked the language of his 2015 bill, HB675, that failed on the House floor by one vote.
During an earlier House Education subcommittee hearing on White’s HB660, 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.”
While White reluctantly agreed to amend Section 5 out of his bill, he commented that the amended bill would not do what he originally intended.
The Senate companion bill sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) passed the Senate Education committee with Section 5 intact. This means that the bills, if passed by both chambers, could be reconciled by a committee made up of Senate and House members with Section 5 included in the final version.
Currently, a state law passed in 2012 called the “Eligibility Verification for Entitlements Act’” classifies in-state tuition as a state benefit. The White/Gardenhire bills would have created an exemption from the law’s prohibition of providing state benefits to illegal immigrants by allowing in-state tuition for illegal immigrant students.
In 2014, the first House bill to try and gain in-state tuition for illegal immigrant students was sponsored by Rep. Richard Floyd during his last year in office.
During the course of committee hearings on his first in-state tuition bill this year, Mark White said that after his 2015 bill failed, he did not bring the bill back the following year “out of respect” for his colleagues because it was an election year. However, White has intimated that the legislative term ending in 2018, could be his last. Even if it isn’t, by moving HB660 to next year’s calendar, White has signaled that he will continue to try and secure in-state tuition for illegal immigrant students – even if it is an election year.
Haslam, also nearing the end of his last term as governor has publicly encouraged legislators to “revive” the failed in-state tuition bills and in doing so, confirmed Tennessee Star’s reporting that was the first to expose the Gardenhire/White plan to use HB660/SB635 as a back-up bill in the event their other in-state tuition bills did not pass.
The Tennessee Star has also been the first to report gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd’s support for this same agenda.