A proposal to grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrants passed out of a Colorado state Senate committee this week after Democrats moved up a vote on the bill to coincide with a Republican opponent’s absence from the state on a family emergency.
Republican state Sen. Ted Harvey‘s father-in-law has Alzheimer’s disease and his health began deteriorating so rapidly early this week that Mr. Harvey was forced to take a few days off to transport the ailing man from Florida to Colorado.
Even so, Mr. Harvey had planned to return to the state legislature in time for Friday’s Appropriations Committee vote on Senate Bill 170, the in-state tuition bill. He had also planned to vote against it, which would have resulted in a 5-5 tie that would have killed the legislation.
Instead, the committee’s Democratic chairman, state Sen. Abel Tapia, seized the opportunity and rescheduled the vote for Wednesday. Without Mr. Harvey, the bill passed 5-4 and now heads to the Senate floor.
Other Republicans on the Appropriations Committee tried to stop the early vote, but were stymied by Democrats. Mr. Tapia told Denver’s Fox TV affiliate later that the vote was rescheduled so that the committee could clear its backlog of bills.
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Chris Romer, son of former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, argued that there was no reason to wait until Friday because the Appropriations Committee is charged only with weighing the legislation’s fiscal impact.
Democrats have argued that the bill would have a positive effect on the state budget because more students would be attending state universities and thus paying tuition. Republicans counter that the state will lose money because those students would ordinarily be paying the higher out-of-state tuition rate.
Republicans were outraged, accusing the Democrats of taking advantage of Mr. Harvey’s difficult personal circumstances.
Mr. Harvey’s office did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.
The bill could now come up for a vote before the full Senate as early as Thursday, although it must still win approval in the House before going before the governor.
Democrats control both chambers, and passage by the Senate appropriations committee was widely considered the biggest hurdle the bill faced.
Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter has said he will sign the bill, which would give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants who have attended a Colorado high school for at least three years. The students must also attend college within one year of graduation or earning their GED.
Nine states now have similar laws, although many are awaiting court challenges.