Topeka Expect another knockdown, drag-out fight in the next legislative session over in-state tuition for some illegal immigrant students.
Only this time, the debate will be super-charged as it will occur before the entire state House and Senate face the voters in 2008.
In a recent talk to Republicans, House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said the GOP House leadership would push a sweeping bill related to immigrants, which would include repeal of the in-state tuition provision.
"It's the most ludicrous idea that anybody ever came up with," Neufeld said of the 2004 law.
The law allows some illegal immigrants to pay the same lower tuition rates as legal Kansans at state universities, community colleges and vocational schools. The student must have lived in Kansas at least three years, graduated from a Kansas high school, and seek or promise to seek legal status.
Last fall, 169 students enrolled under the provision, according to the Kansas Board of Regents.
Of those, 29 were enrolled in public universities, including eight at Kansas University, 130 at community colleges and 10 at technical schools and colleges.
But since its passage, the law has been under attack from legislators who say it creates an incentive for immigrants to come to Kansas illegally.
Supporters of the law, however, say many of the students benefiting from it have lived in the state almost all their lives after having been brought here by their parents.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who signed the measure into law, defends it as good for the economy.
"We need the best-trained work force in the world, and kids who are in this state and graduated from Kansas schools we want to encourage to go to college," Sebelius said.
There have been numerous attempts in the House to repeal the law, but none has passed.
Sebelius said some are trying to exploit the issue for political reasons.
"Unfortunately, it is less about the policy and the money - because there are relatively a small number of students - and more about trying to drive a wedge, trying to make this issue barring some Kansas students from higher education in order to get a political gain, and I think that is terribly unfortunate," she said.
Sheri Steisel, a policy analyst on immigration issues with the National Conference of State Legislatures, said Kansas is typical of states wrestling with immigration issues.
Absent a consistent federal policy on illegal immigration, the states have stepped into the breach, crafting legislation specifically for their perceived needs, she said.
"The legislative activity has been extraordinary," she said.
State legislatures introduced 1,404 measures on immigrants and immigration this year, about 2 1/2 times more than last year, according to a conference report.
Ten states, including Kansas, have in-state tuition laws.
"States are identifying similar issues but coming up with different policy solutions. Absent a national solution, states are doing what they feel is representing their constituents," she said.