In-state tuition bill moves to House floor
A controversial plan to allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state college tuition rates is on track for passage this year, with a vote this afternoon to send the bill for debate in the full House of Delegates.
The House Ways and Means Committee approved the bill on a party-line vote of 14-7 (see jump). Del. Jon Cardin, a Baltimore County Democrat, abstained from voting, citing concerns about how the measure could impact the beleaguered state budget.
Under the proposal, illegal immigrants who attended at least three years of high school in Maryland, and whose parents have paid the state taxes, would qualify for in-state tuition rates at community colleges. After two years, they could transfer to four-year institutions and continue to pay residential rates.
The House plan makes several changes to what the Senate approved last month. Men would have to sign up for selective service, as all qualified 18-year-old males do, and the undocumented students would be counted as out-of-state students for admission purposes to avoid displacing other Maryland residents.
Lawmakers shared teary, personal stories before the committee voted -- a preview of what could be one more lengthy and emotional floor debate in the quickly waning session, which ends at midnight Monday.
Del. Justin Ross, chief deputy majority whip, predicted the tuition bill will gain final passage.
"We're optimistic that we have the votes," said the Prince George's County Democrat, who supports the bill and is a Ways and Means member. "Otherwise, we wouldn't have voted it out of committee."
Republicans raised numerous concerns at today's hearing.
"We're investing taxpayer dollars in people who may not ever legally be able to work in our state," said Del. Kathy Afzali, a Frederick County Republican.
Del. Andrew Serafini said higher education is not a "right."
"This is the land of opportunity, not the land of entitlement," the Washington County Republican said.
Del. Sandy Rosenberg, Baltimore Democrat
Del. Kumar Barve, Montgomery County Democrat
Del. Talmadge Branch, Baltimore Democrat
Del. Bill Frick, Montgomery County Democrat
Del. Carolyn Howard, Prince George's County Democrat
Del. Jolene Ivey, Prince George's County Democrat
Del. Anne Kaiser, Montgomery County Democrat
Del. Eric Luedtke, Montgomery County Democrat
Del. Aruna Miller, Montgomery County Democrat
Del. Justin Ross, Prince George's County Democrat
Del. Melvin Stukes, Baltimore Democrat
Del. Michael Summers, Prince George's County Democrat
Del. Frank Turner, Howard County Democrat
Del. Jay Walker, Prince George's County Democrat
Del. Kathy Afzali, Frederick County Republican
Del. Joseph Boteler, Baltimore County Republican
Del. Mark Fisher, Southern Maryland Republican
Del. Ron George, Anne Arundel County Republican
Del. Glen Glass, Cecil and Harford counties Republican
Del. LeRoy Myers, Western Maryland Republican
Del. Andrew Serafini, Washington County Republican
Del. Jon Cardin, Baltimore County Democrat
* Del. Sheila Hixson, Montgomery County Democrat, is chairwoman and did not vote, as is customary. However, she sponsored the House version of the bill.