The Washington House shot the DREAM Act over to the Senate Monday. Where key Senate leaders immediately shot it down.
Under the DREAM Act, the children of undocumented immigrants would be eligible to apply for college financial aid from the state. Those who stand to benefit most from the legislation are the kids of migrant farmworkers in Eastern Washington.
The DREAM Act passed the House last year (77-20) with significant Republican support. But the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus refused to let the bill go to a floor vote in that chamber. This despite the fact that moderate GOP members of the Caucus supposedly supported passage. Choosing not to defy the Caucus's conservative majority, those moderates helped keep the bill from a floor vote.
House Democrats revived the DREAM Act on Monday, the very first day of the 2014 session. (The legislation was technically still alive because the new session is part of the same 2013-2015 biennium.) Dems zipped the bill through the House with a 71-23 vote and sent it, once again, to the Senate. The bill could skip new hearings since it is identical to the legislation that the House passed last year.
"This bill simply allows all children in college to be treated the same," said Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwilla, one of the bill's chief sponsors. " ... It is not a giveaway, but an opportunity to compete." said Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwilla, one of the bill's chief sponsors.
DREAM opponent Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, countered: Of the 106,000 students who apply for state college aid each year, about 32,000 do not get any. Adding undocumented immigrants to the pool would make those odds even longer. "Statistics unfortunately trump the dream at this time," said Haler.
Senate Majority Coalition Caucus Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, along with Senate Higher Education Committee chair Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, said it was unlikely that the revived bill would be voted on in the Senate, even though there looks to be enough moderate support, including from Tom, to ensure its passage. Tom is deferring to higher ed committee chair Bailey, who said she won't hold a hearing on the bill or move it. The DREAM Act bill needs study, said Bailey, and her committee won't have time to tackle it because of higher priorities, such as tuition matters for veterans.
Tom conceded that the DREAM Act is a jobs bill, which is one of prime planks of the majority coalition's philosophical approach to legislation. But Tom and the coalition's other moderates have never been willing to break with the conservative-dominated caucus on controversial legislation. Today was no different. The composition of the coalition has shifted from last year's two Democrats and 23 Republicans to this year's two Democrats and 24 Republicans, giving the coalition a 26-23 majority in the Senate. The DREAM Act is still dead.