Early this afternoon, the Texas legislature debated Senate Bill 297 by Senator Leticia Van De Putte.
The bill is intended to provide support to the men and women who have served our country and are ready to go to any of our public universities.
According to the bill analysis:
Currently, veterans who are not Texans but who want to attend a public college or university in Texas are required to pay out-of-state tuition and fees until they have lived in Texas for one year. Non-Texas veterans who may be interested in settling in Texas may be hesitant to attend college here because of the out-of-state tuition costs. Senate Bill 297 would deliver real support to veterans while helping strengthen Texas' economy by attracting and keeping talent in the state. Expanding in-state tuition benefits to military veterans and their spouses and children is a fitting way to recognize those who have served, led, and protected our country.
SB 297 would allow veterans and their spouses and children to pay in-state tuition and fees without regard to the length of time they have resided in Texas.
Democrat Marc Veasey offered an amendment during the House debate to extend these benefits to the children of active duty soldiers fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan.
It's not surprising the amendment and bill easily passed. However, it is surprising nearly two dozen House Republicans voted against tuition benefits for the kids of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Who were the Republicans who opposed helping children and our military?
- Warren Chisum
- Joe Crabb
- Tom Craddick
- Brandon Creighton
- Gary Elkins
- Dan Flynn
- Kelly Hancock
- Will Hartnett
- Charlie Howard
- Ken Legle
- Debbie Riddle
- Mark Shelton
- John Smithee
- David Swinford
- Vicki Truitt
- Randy Weber
- Beverly Woolley
- John Zerwas
To be clear.
A Democratic State Senator from San Antonio and a Democratic State Representative from Fort Worth authored and amended a piece of legislation to help military families get an education in our public universities. The amendment is projected to have little fiscal impact on the state budget, but it will improve the lives of families who have made huge sacrifices for our state and country. It overwhelmingly passed, but 20 Republicans felt so strongly opposed to the amendment they decided to create a 13% minority and oppose active duty soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As the right wing of the Republican Party continues to be marginalized and Democratic gains continue, expect that percentage to decrease.
Update: According to Vince Leibowitz, Chief of Staff for Rep. Sheffield, Molly B. Quirk, is saying he is changing his mind.
The Rep. Sheffield did not vote against the amendment. The unofficial tally is online, he changed his vote to aye. He is a co-author on the amendment to the amendment.
Update: Rep. Veasey's office had the following press release to elaborate on the amendment.
State Representative Marc Veasey (D-Fort Worth) today passed an amendment to Senate Bill 297 that will exempt the children of US Armed Forces personnel who are deployed in a foreign combat zone from tuition costs associated with attendance at a state institution of higher education during semesters when one or both of their parents are so deployed. The amendment passed with a vote of 125 members for to 20 members opposed.
“The purpose of this amendment is to honor the sacrifices made by our soldiers and their family members during times of war. Many of these soldiers have been deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan for years at a stretch, and the personal and economic costs to their families can be severe. This tuition exemption is a small way that we as a state can give back to these families who have given us so much,” said Rep. Veasey.
Over 150,000 Americans are presently deployed in the Iraq and Afghanistan warzone, including many thousands of men and women from Texas. The Veasey amendment will open doors of opportunity for the college-age children of those soldiers deployed from Texas by sharply reducing the cost of higher education – a particularly important benefit during this time of economic hardship.
“Time and again, we've asked these men and women to put their lives on the line. I'm glad to see such a strong majority of my fellow representatives join me to provide what help we can to these soldiers' families,” said Rep. Veasey.