TN Sen Todd Gardenshire's undocumented student bill shelved

TN Sen Todd Gardenshire's undocumented student bill shelved

March 24th, 2014 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

Todd Gardenhire

Photo by C.B. Schmelter /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE -- Senate Education Committee members today shelved Sen. Todd Gardenhire's "tuition equality bill" that would have granted in-state college tuition rates to undocumented students who've spent five years in Tennessee schools and graduated from high school here.

Education Chairman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, this afternoon announced the measure by Gardenhire, a Chattanooga Republican, was being sent to "general sub," meaning it was taken off the panel's calendar of bills to be heard.

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coaltion, which backed the legislation, lamented the move with officials fearing it's dead for the year.

"It is unfortunate that the legislature has missed an opportunity to strengthen our state's economy, generate revenue for our universities, and give every student the opportunity to pay their fair share for college," said Cesar Bautista, a coordinator of TIRRC's campaign for Tuition Equality.

He said when undocumented high school seniors graduate in May, "they will have to pay 3 times as much for school, making higher education impossible for most."

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, in the House, has faced opposition from a number of Republican lawmakers.

Immigrant advocates say the bill would have helped an estimated 14,000 students whose parents, illegal immigrants, brought them to the U.S.

A related Gardenhire bill, which grants in-state tuition rates to U.S.-born children of undocumented residents living in Tennessee, has made it to the Senate floor where it is among bills to be heard later today.