- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2005

RICHMOND — The House today is expected to pass a bill that would ban illegal aliens from attending state-sponsored colleges, but a powerful state senator who controls the bill’s fate said the measure is dead-on-arrival.

The House yesterday gave preliminary approval of the legislation, authored by Delegate Thomas D. Gear, Hampton Republican.

Delegates will take a recorded vote today. Last year, the House passed a similar bill, 72-23, but the Senate Education and Health Committee later rejected the measure.

“It is the worst possible case of overreach and overkill because it goes against the American dream,” said Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., Winchester Republican and the committee chairman. “I predict we are going to kill that bill.”

Mr. Potts said young students should not be penalized for their parents’ mistakes. No states bar illegal aliens from attending state colleges.

Yesterday, the delegates debated Mr. Gear’s bill, with one lawmaker calling it “absolutely, totally illogical.”

Mr. Gear said the bill is necessary so illegals don’t take coveted spots at the state’s top schools.

Delegate John S. Reid, Henrico Republican who sponsored the same bill last year, said premier schools such as University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary already enroll few Virginians.

“As long as we are in a situation where there is limited enrollment, it ought to be limited to people who are not breaking the laws of this country,” he said.

The House Education Committee on Monday approved Mr. Gear’s bill on a 15-7 vote.

Others opposed the bill.

“I would urge you to support education and training for these [aliens] whether they are here legally or illegally because they are here and we ought to train them,” said Delegate James Hardy Dillard II, Fairfax Republican.

Mr. Dillard said the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill because the organization wants skilled laborers. The Chamber of Commerce is the largest in the Washington area, representing more than 650,000 jobs regionwide.

Delegate Lionell Spruill Sr., who is black, reminded lawmakers that they are all immigrants and that perhaps their ancestors came from Europe to the United States illegally. The Chesapeake Democrat also reminded lawmakers that blacks were barred from attending Virginia schools.

“We were born in this country and we couldn’t go to the schools,” he said. “Don’t forget that.”

Delegate Robert D. Hull, Falls Church Democrat, said the bill has “too broad a brush,” and that it is possible a high school graduate brought to the United States as an infant might not know he or she is here illegally.

The issue of illegal aliens and higher education has come up in Virginia for several years.

Like other states, Virginia has grappled with allowing aliens to pay in-state tuition, but the law requires them to pay out-of-state tuition, which can be three to four times more than the tuition rate Virginia residents pay.

California, Texas, New York and Utah allow illegal aliens to pay in-state tuition.

In 2002, the office of Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican, issued a letter to state colleges suggesting that they not admit illegal aliens as a matter of policy, but that each school make its own decision.

Legislation giving the state’s public universities greater autonomy is on its way to the Senate floor.

Without dissent, the Education and Health Committee yesterday endorsed the legislation sponsored by Sens. Thomas K. Norment Jr., James City Republican, and John H. Chichester, Stafford Republican.

The legislation is the result of a proposal by the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and the College of William & Mary to give up some state funding in exchange for more control over finances and operations. The so-called “charter university” measure was expanded to include all public colleges.

Colleges would be required to meet certain performance goals in exchange for more independence.

Sen. John S. Edwards, Roanoke Democrat, expressed concern over a provision requiring four legislative leaders to sign off on agreements with universities at the top two levels of independence. One legislative leader could hold up an agreement by withholding his signature, and Mr. Edwards said no legislator should have that much power.

A bill that would have added instruction on the humane treatment of animals died in the Senate on a 17-22 vote yesterday.

In a heated floor speech, Mr. Potts growled at unnamed opponents of his bill for what he called a “misinformation campaign” against it.

“I am madder than the devil about some of the misinformation campaigns that have gone on about this bill,” he said.

The legislation would have required teaching the need for kind treatment of animals in character education courses already mandated in public schools. It required no new textbooks or courses.

“All we’re asking you to do is to get a teacher to say ‘Be kind to animals,’” Mr. Potts said, speaking fondly of his current dog, Maggie, and his childhood pet, an Airedale named Carlisle that lived to the unusual age of 17 and won the “oldest dog” ribbon at a school dog show.

Sens. Kenneth Thomas Cuccinelli II and Jay O’Brien, Fairfax Republicans, argued that the law could set up unreasonable standards for teachers or open the way for teachers to speak against hunting and fishing, eating meat or using animals for labor or entertainment.

Mr. Cuccinelli, reading from the character education law, argued that teaching about kindness to animals — as well as to people — is already implicit in the course requirements.

Virginia’s part of an effort by states to collect taxes on Internet purchases at the point of sale is dead for the year.

Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., Augusta Republican, pulled his streamlined sales tax legislation for the year. He asked that the measure be recommitted to the Senate Finance Committee for the remainder of the 2005 session.

Sales taxes are rarely collected on sales made over the Internet. Mr. Hanger’s bill was intended to help the state collect taxes from online sales. For such a system to work, however, Congress would have to enact its version of the law.

The phaseout of the tax cities and counties levy on cars, frozen in place by the state budget crisis three years ago and capped last year, would be back on track under legislation on its way to a House floor vote.

The budget-writing House Appropriations Committee without debate last night voted 12-7 to endorse a measure that would wipe out by 2012 the remaining 30 percent of the hated car tax still in force today.

The bill, proposed by Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, Prince William Republican, comes just before campaigns begin for all 100 House seats, up for election this fall. It also joins a $938 million transportation package being advanced by leaders of the House’s Republican majority.

The panel also voted 22-1 to report to the full House a bill by the committee chairman, Delegate Vincent F. Callahan Jr., Fairfax Republican, that designates one-third of the state tax on insurance premiums to a fund exclusively for transportation projects.

Mr. Callahan’s bill prohibits legislators from withdrawing money from the fund during tight fiscal times for use elsewhere in the budget.

The key vote, however, was on the sort of fiscal instability that contributed to budget deficits totaling $6 billion since 2001.

“It is disappointing that some would move ahead to saddle future budgets with election-year promises based on unsustainable revenues,” said Kevin Hall, the governor’s deputy press secretary. “It is ironic that this occurs the very same week that Virginia was ranked tops in the nation for its return to responsible long-range planning.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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