April 10, 2008

Colorado Tuition Bill For Purple Heart Recipients Killed By House Appropriations Committee

"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

"The representatives argued in line with the higher education lobby, that the state simply did not have the money to fund the worthy cause"--Rocky Mountain News

Think elections don't have any consequences?

A bill to provide free tuition to post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients (previous coverage) has been killed by the House Appropriations Committee in a 9-4 vote to postpone the bill indefinitely:
Butcher (D)--Yes
Ferrandino (D)--Yes
Judd (D)--Yes
Kerr J. (R)--No
Massey (R)--Yes
McGihon (D)--Yes
McNulty (R)--No
Riesberg (D)--Yes
Vaad (R)--Yes
Weissmann (D)--Yes
White (R)--No
Pommer (D)--Yes
Buescher (D)--No
The bill itself was sponsored by a Democrat--Rep. Rafael Gallegos--but he could not overcome the opposition from fellow Democrats (plus two slimy Republicans) and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (whose Executive Director, David Skaggs, called for in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants last year). The "representatives argued in line with the higher education lobby, that the state simply did not have the money to fund the worthy cause":
The House Appropriations Committee killed a bill this morning that would have given free college tuition to post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients.

Lobbyists for the state's colleges and universities strongly urged lawmakers to vote against the bill after it sailed through the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee in February.

Cathy Wanstrath, a lobbyist for the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, sent an e-mail then to two dozen state Capitol lobbyists, laying out a plan to kill the measure when it was heard by the Appropriations Committee.

"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," said the e-mail obtained 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."

The bill was held over for nearly two months in hopes that its sponsor Rep. Rafael Gallegos, D-Antonito, could come to a compromise agreement with the higher education lobby. The lobby's chief concern was that the state could not afford to give free tuition to anyone.

This morning, Gallegos offered amendments aimed at decreasing the cost of the bill. His amendments would have capped tuition waivers at 25 total recipients this fall, with a maximum of five at each state institution. That cap would have lifted after the first year.

Gallegos also offered to tighten the award's qualifications only to apply to those who received the Purple Heart or a higher decoration, and only during combat after Sept. 11, 2001.

Those modifications would have kept the cost of the bill to the state under $250,000 in its first year.

However, lawmakers voted against Gallegos' amendment and then voted to postpone the bill indefinitely - essentially killing it - on a vote of 9-4.
Opponents offered the weak argument that state could not afford the tuition waiver, and one Democrat was worried that the bill would attract Purple Heart recipients to Colorado--oh the horrors!:
"We need to take care of many other things," said Rep. Anne McGihon, D-Denver, who said such tuition benefits were the responsibility of the federal government. She added that she was concerned the bill would attract Purple Heart recipients to move to Colorado in order to cash in on the benefit.

Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, voted against postponing it indefinitely, saying the state had an obligation to provide for its veterans.

"I think we could do a lot worse" than attract Purple Heart recipients to Colorado, McNulty said.
Undaunted by the setback, the plucky Gallegos vows to press on:
Gallegos, who is up for re-election this fall, said he'll bring the bill back next year if he wins.

"This is just the beginning of what we can do for veterans and I will continue to pursue the matter," he said. "Colorado is waiting for this bill to pass."
The House Appropriations Committee and its rejection of our service men and women who have made the sacrifice for this country and for this state, is handily taken to task in the comments over at the News:
The PURPLE HEART is awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.

Thank you for your service to our county, UNFORTUNATELY it means nothing to COLORADO COMMISSION ON HIGHER EDUCATION.

I am a post 9/11 war veteran and I have friends who received the Purple Heart and they deserve everything they get for LITERALLY putting there lives on the line for out Country. They have been shot, taken fragments from mortars and RPG's, they have lost limbs, sight, hearing, but not their spirit.

I hope Cathy Wanstrath and her cronies never know what war is like and live in the Freedom the Service Men and Women provide for these ungrateful scum of our country!
A tight-belted response from the party of handouts?

Oh, that's right. It's the military. Not the right target group.

And yes, it does make a difference.

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