Today is the filing deadline for all bills for the 2013 legislative session. Of course, there’s still plenty of time to amend the numerous shell bills that have been filed (if you don’t know what a shell bill is, here’s an example – it’s simply a bill filed with only a limited title that can be filled in later by an amendment). After shuffling through all of the shell bills, I managed to find a couple of substantive bills that I find worthy of mention.
SB915 – What some may call the Arkansas equivalent to the DREAM Act, this bill allows any student that attends an Arkansas high school for 3 years and either graduates or receives a GED to attend an Arkansas state-supported institution of higher education at the in-state tuition rate. This, of course, is aimed at allowing undocumented children, brought to Arkansas illegally at no fault of their own, to attend college at a reasonable price. Per the bill, an undocumented student also has to file an affidavit with the institution indicating that they intend to legalize their immigration status. How the student can go about doing that, legalizing themselves I mean, is left out of the bill, and for good reason. I’m not an expert on immigration law, but obtaining legal immigration status once you’re already here illegally is hard to say the least. If this bill passes, the student would have to indicate their intent to obtain legal status, not actually do it. Sen. Elliott filed the bill, and it has a few notable Republican co-sponsors, which I think means it has a chance of passing. Other states have enacted similar provisions, and in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to a California law similar to this. Opponents argue that this law will be preempted by a federal statute that says that an undocumented individual is not eligible, based on their residency, for any postsecondary educational benefit unless the state offers that benefit to all U.S. citizens. So, for example, in order to offer in-state tuition to undocumented students, higher education institutions would also have to offer in-state tuition to any U.S. citizen, regardless of their residency. In principle, I whole-heartedly agree with the bill. I don’t have a good answer for the preemption argument, but complying with federal law is not exactly something that this legislature has been concerned with. See Act 301.
SB1042 – This bill requires approval from the House and Senate Education Committees before the Commissioner/State Board of Education can take over a school for academic, fiscal, or facilities distress. This is not based on policy. Rather, its based entirely on opposition to how the Pulaski County Special School District case was handled. This doesn’t have a chance of passing, but then again, I said that about Act 301.
And just for fun:
HB1954 – Only a shell bill, but the title says it all:
“TO AMEND ARKANSAS LAW CONCERNING INFRINGEMENTS OF THE CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED RIGHTS OF THE STATE OF ARKANSAS OR ITS CITIZENS VIA A FEDERAL ACT DEEMED TO BE UNCONSTITUTIONAL.“
I can’t help but think of the last time this state’s lawmakers were full of anti-federal government political rhetoric. See Cooper v. Aaron.