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Archive for Thursday, April 1, 2004

Lawrence lawmaker taken off committee

Disagreement over immigrant education bill leads to ouster

April 1, 2004

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— An effort Wednesday to revive a bill designed to provide easier access for illegal immigrants to higher education was dealt a blow, and Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, got caught in the political crossfire.

Sloan was the chief of the House side of a House-Senate conference committee negotiating differences in the two chambers' work on another higher education bill.

Sloan decided to put into that bill the provisions of the illegal immigration bill that passed the House last year and the Senate this year, but was then bottled up in another committee.

That bill would allow students who are in the country illegally but have lived in Kansas at least five years to be charged the lower, resident tuition rate at public universities, community colleges and vocational colleges. The students also would have to prove they were seeking citizenship or legal resident status.

The cost difference in resident tuition rates and out-of-state tuition rates keeps many illegal immigrants from attending college, minority advocacy groups say. For example, 15 undergraduate hours at Kansas University this semester cost $1,763 for residents and $5,501 for nonresidents.

The measure, supported by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, has been hotly contested the past two years.

But House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, who opposes the legislation, told Sloan to take the bill out.

When Sloan refused, Mays replaced him on the House-Senate conference committee with another lawmaker, Rep. Kathe Decker, R-Clay Center.

"The speaker and I have a disagreement over what is responsible public policy. I'm not making a big deal out of it," Sloan said.

Mays said he removed Sloan from the conference committee to "slow down" progress on the bill.

Mays said he opposed the illegal immigrant provision as proposed. He said he could agree to allow in-state tuition for the students if they were born in the United States but their parents were illegal immigrants.

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