Tennessee state senator Todd Gardenhire, a first-term Republican from Chattanooga, withdrew legislation he sponsored that would have extended taxpayer subsidized in-state tuition to illegal aliens. Gardenshire said he doesn’t have enough support to get his bill through the Senate or House this year.
“The burden’s on me to be able to educate my colleagues and to educate the public,” Gardenhire said. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there, that if they stopped and thought about it, the ramifications, they might change their minds.”
SB 1951 would have offered in-state tuition to those who spent at least five years in Tennessee schools, irrespective of immigration status. The legislation runs contrary to a 2012 law that prevents illegal aliens from obtaining public benefits. The University of Tennessee interpreted that law to mean that illegal aliens cannot be accepted as students, let alone get in-state tuition.
The House Education Committee held a hearing on a related bill (HB 1992) sponsored by state Rep. Richard Floyd. At the hearing, Floyd said, “This is hard for me. Let me tell you, you don’t think I’m not taking heat back in my community…I want to do the right thing.” Another Republican, state Rep. Mark White, said “All we are saying is if you are a student who has gone to school in Tennessee and are now ready to go to college to be a more productive citizen, you can pay in-state tuition.”
Although Gardenshire withdrew his bill before any votes were held, he claimed to have built an alliance with pro-illegal alien groups that could be helpful later. Gardenshire’s bill also gained the support of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and other business groups.
In a statement, the Nashville Chamber said, “The annual cost difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition can be as much as $8,000 for a public university in our region. The proposed legislation aligns with the chamber’s policy principles of increasing the number of postsecondary degrees in the region and immigration-related reforms that address workforce needs.”
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R) also supported the bill and Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said he was evaluating the measure. “I think it’s an idea that has some merit. I really do,” Haslam told reporters.
Read more in The Tennessean.
Updated: Tue, Apr 8th 2014 @ 3:20pm EDT