March 02, 2008

Colorado Disabled Veterans' Tuition Bill Suffers Setback, Now All But Dead

"We’re talking about our countrymen who are serving to protect us and provide the freedom we all enjoy. These are the people who put their lives on the line for us. They deserve to be taken care of"--Rep. Rafael Gallegos, sponsor of the free tuition bill for decorated combat veterans

Email Rep. let him know you support continuing the fight for veterans' tuition

An update from a few weeks back
, when it was revealed through leaked emails that the Colorado Department of Higher Education was aggressively trying to kill a tuition waiver bill for veterans--including the disabled--through back-door channels:
In the duel between veterans and the Colorado Department of Higher Education, the bean counters parried successfully this morning.

Lobbyists for Colorado’s cash-strapped colleges and universities unwittingly revealed in an e-mail earlier this month that they planned to kill House Bill 1068, which would grant free tuition to Colorado veterans. The universities contend that they can’t afford the tuition break and that no one can say how many veterans would qualify.

For now, the lobbyists’ plan is working; as of today, the bill was ailing, if not dead.

During the House Appropriations Committee meeting, lawmakers tabled the bill after committee members cast a tie vote on whether to add an amendment that would limit the number of veterans who would qualify. The amendment would have restricted free tuition to disabled veterans who had received the Purple Heart in post 9/11 wars.

Rep. Rafael Gallegos, D-Antoninto, who sponsored the bill, said he was willing to compromise on limiting the tuition break to post 9/11 service members. But, Gallegos thinks it’s too restrictive to give the benefit only to disabled veterans.

“We’re talking about our countrymen who are serving to protect us and provide the freedom we all enjoy,’’ Gallegos said. “These are the people who put their lives on the line for us. They deserve to be taken care of.’’
As noted in the previous post, among the opponents of the bill claiming a lack of funds is David Skaggs, who called for in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants just last year.

The same funding excuse continues to stall the bill:
John Karakoulakis, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Higher Education said his side will also work toward a compromise. Higher education officials had supported the today’s amendment. But, without it, the bill has little chance of moving forward. So, at the moment the bill is stalled.

“We were concerned that this was such a wide-open bill. We were trying to address the neediest veterans,’’ Karakoulakis said.

“We’re going to keep trying to work as well,’’ he said, but he said the cost of the bill is still unclear.

“There are is no good number out there (of how many veterans would qualify),” Karakoulakis said. “We don’t have estimates of costs right now.”
Since when do liberals and the bean-counters in higher education care about costs? If this bill were designed for some other group, there would be a moral imperative to find a way to get this tuition waiver through.

It appears the Democrat-controlled Colorado legislature (it must be noted that this bill is sponsored by a Democrat) can't seem to overcome the lobbying of the Colorado Department of Education, who is behind the attempt to kill the bill:
In an e-mail Monday to two dozen Capitol lobbyists, Cathy Wanstrath, a lobbyist for the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, laid out a plan to kill the measure when it is heard by the Appropriations Committee on Friday.

"I think you all agree we need to kill this bill, and (the Colorado Department of Higher Education) has been happy to take the lead," according to the memo obtained Tuesday by the Rocky Mountain News. "However, we need your help in the next couple of days to count the votes to kill it in committee."
Once again, here is the link to the Colorado Department of Higher Education, as well as the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

Have a message for David Skaggs? (keep it polite)

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