An attempt to overturn a groundbreaking 2001 Texas law allowing certain illegal immigrants to receive cheaper in-state tuition rates at state universities all but died in the House late Wednesday.
After Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, upheld a challenge to House Bill 159 on a technicality, the legislation's sponsor, Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington,said it was too late to bring the bill back to the floor.
Zedler said he would look for an opportunity to attach the bill to other legislation during the session's waning days.
House Bill 159 would have amended the Texas Education Code, prohibiting illegal immigrants from being considered residents and eligible for the cheaper tuition.
Since 2001, 11,130 of the millions of students attending Texas higher education institutions have used the law to qualify for cheaper tuition at 81 state universities, health-related institutions and community, technical or state colleges.
The figure includes undocumented students and legal residents, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Since Texas enacted the law, with strong bipartisan support and little opposition, nine other states have passed similar legislation.
But with Congress unable to find solutions to illegal immigration, state legislatures are struggling to decide whether to extend or deny in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.
Two things to add here, both from Quorum Report. First, on the nature of the point of order that killed the bill:
For those prone to read tea leaves, Speaker Craddick's decision to uphold [Rep.] Tommy Merritt's point of order tonight was significant on a couple of points.
First, Merritt's move forestalled a potential test vote on benefits for illegal immigrants. Some thought this vote paralleled the vote taken on vouchers in 2005 that proved the litmus test leading to Leininger's millions in the 2006 primary season. Merritt, one of those targeted by the fabled Leininger Five, would have been more sensitive to that than most.
The background agreement tonight had been to allow that test vote -- on Noriega's amendment to gut the bill -- before sustaining a point of order raised by Noriega.
But Merritt was one step ahead with his point of order, which leads to the second major point.
The reverberations from Monday night's would-be putsch continue. Speaker Craddick had little choice but to sustain Merritt's point of order even though it voided the previous arrangement. In the end, though, the Speaker could not afford to stir up an already on-edge House with an overrule on an obvious point of order. With the House having already demonstrated a willingness to over rule the Chair, venturing too far from the rules could be risky business.
QR is not advised as to whether plagiarism constitutes valid grounds for a point of order, but we'd like to point out some striking similarities between the bill analysis for HB 159 and a column written in March 2003 by Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly.
HB 159, authored by Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington), would repeal legislation passed in 2001 that allowed non-citizen Texas residents to pay in-state tuition at public universities. The topic, which was heavily debated in last year's gubernatorial election, seems likely to spur more rhetorical fireworks when its turn on the calendar arrives. That could happen as soon as later this afternoon.
-- From the analysis: "The monetary difference, which varies, can be more than $12,000 per student. This windfall was given despite the need for additional funding in Texas higher education."
From Ms. Schlafly: "The monetary difference, which varies from state to state, can be as high as $11,000 per year, and this windfall is given even though most state governments are crying about budget shortfalls because of the current state of our economy."
-- From the analysis: "Federal law (Title 8, Chapter 14, Sec. 1623) states: 'an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State ... for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident.'"
From Ms. Schlafly: "Federal law (Title 8, Chapter 14, Sec. 1623) states: 'an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State ... for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident.'"
-- From the analysis: "When Congress passed this law and President Clinton signed it in 1996, there was no misunderstanding about what this law meant. Conference Report 104-828 stated, 'this section provides that illegal aliens are not eligible for in-state tuition rates at public institutions of higher education.'"
From Ms. Schlafly: "There was no misunderstanding about what this law means, either when Congress passed it or when President Clinton signed it in 1996. Conference Report 104-828 stated, 'this section provides that illegal aliens are not eligible for in-state tuition rates at public institutions of higher education.'"
-- From the analysis: "Universities have circumvented this federal law by the 'loophole' of simply not asking or documenting whether student applicants are legally in this country."
From Ms. Schlafly: "The universities think they can circumvent this federal law by the 'loophole' of simply not asking student applicants whether or not they are legally in this country."
It must be noted that the grafs in the bill analysis did not bear any attribution. When asked, Zedler said he was unaware of the Schlafly column or any similarities between the bill analysis for his bill and the column. He noted that an analysis is sometimes written by the author's staff and sometimes by the committee staff.
Since this bill is all about higher ed, the question must be asked, Would the author of the analysis be able to submit this to his college professor and say it's original work?