The Legislation

The Tuition Equity for New Jersey DREAMers campaign currently supports two bills: A1659/S2355 and A3509/S2479.

If you want a bit more understanding of how bills and the legislative process work, scroll down to “Legislation 101”.

A1659/S2355: “Tuition Equity”

A1659/S2355 is a bill that would give in-state tuition to any New Jersey student, provided they meet each of the following criteria:

  1. Attended high school in this State for three or more years;
  2. Graduated from a high school in this State or received the equivalent of a high school diploma in this State;
  3. Registers as an entering student or is currently enrolled in a public institution of higher education not earlier than the fall semester of the 2007-2008 academic year; and
  4. In the case of a person without lawful immigration status, files an affidavit with the institution of higher education stating that the student has filed an application to legalize his immigration status or will file an application as soon as he is eligible to do so.

Currently, each college or university has its own policy guiding payment of in-state tuition. Some use the term ‘domiciled’ or ‘resident’, both of which potentially exclude undocumented youth, forcing them to pay out-of-state or even international tuition rates. Some have a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and will charge in-state tuition until you out yourself as an undocumented person. And most of these schools do not make their policy public, meaning that students do not know when they apply or are accepted what the policy will be.

A1659/S2355 would clear all that up and make one standardized policy, which would also expand access to undocumented students. It should be noted that this would also allow US citizens who were New Jersey residents but have moved out of state to qualify for in-state tuition, provided they meet the above criteria. This would be a big step in helping fight the broader problem of “Brain drain” facing New Jersey’s university system.

One last big point on this legislation: If you sign the affidavit with the University saying that you are undocumented, the law states that this information will be confidential. That means you, and your family, would not be publicly listed as an undocumented person in any way. Also, neither of these bills provide lawful immigration status to an unauthorized immigrant. But it will allow them to pay the same tuition rates that other New Jersey taxpayers pay.

For the Assembly version of the Bill, A1659, click here.
For the Senate version of the Bill, S2355, click here.

Current Sponsors of A1659:

Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson (D-37, Bergen)
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37, Bergen)
Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-20, Union)

Current Sponsors of S2355:

Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29, Essex)
Senator Sandra B. Cunningham (D-31, Union)

A3509/S2479: “Tuition Equity PLUS Aid”

A3509/S2479 is a bill that would give in-state tuition and eligibility for state financial aid to any student that meets the following requirements:

  1. Attended high school in this State for three or more years;
  2. Graduated from a high school in this State or received the equivalent of a high school diploma in this State;
  3. Registers as an entering student or is currently enrolled in a public institution of higher education not earlier than the fall semester of the 2007-2008 academic year; and
  4. In the case of a person without lawful immigration status, files an affidavit with the institution of higher education stating that the student has filed an application to legalize his immigration status or will file an application as soon as he is eligible to do so.
  5. In the case of a person without lawful immigration status, meets the eligibility criteria, and has submitted a request to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, for consideration of the United States Department of Homeland Security’s deferred action for childhood arrivals process.

Now, you’ll notice, the first four requirements are the same as A1659/S2355. However, this bill adds a 5th requirement: the student must have applied to the Federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Acceptance into the Deferred Action program would give protection from deportation for a period as well as the possibility of a work permit. DACA does not give lawful immigration status, simply protection from deportation. Also, you do not need to have received DACA to get in-state tuition and eligibility for aid. You just need to apply.

Now, while this bill limits the number of individuals it helps, it also gives access to state aid to those who are eligible. With this trade off, it is a difficult choice. That is why we are endorsing both bills, and seeing which one passes. The legitimacy provided by the Deferred Action program might be what’s needed for a policy like this to pass in New Jersey.

For the Assembly version of the Bill, A3509, click here.
For the Senate version of the Bill, S2479, click here. (Actually, the Senate version is so new its not even online. We’ll link it when its up.)

Current Sponsors of A3509:

Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson (D-37, Bergen)
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37, Bergen)

Current Sponsors of S2479:

Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29, Essex)
Senator Sandra B. Cunningham (D-31, Union)

Legislation 101

OK, folks, let’s talk about the legislative process:

The New Jersey legislature has two houses: The Assembly and The Senate. New Jersey has 40 Legislative Districts.

The Assembly has 80 members. This means there are 2 Assembly-men or -women for every Legislative District. The Senate has 40 members. This means there is 1 Senator for every Legislative District.

This means that no matter where you live in New Jersey, there are 3 state legislators that represent YOU.

For a bill to become law, it must pass by a majority vote (50% + 1) of both houses, and be signed into law by the Governor. If the Governor vetoes (refuses to sign) the bill, the bill must pass both houses by a 2/3 vote.

A majority vote of the Assembly is 41 votes, if everyone shows up to vote. A 2/3 vote is 54 votes.

A majority vote of the Senate is 21 votes, if everyone shows up to vote. A 2/3 vote is 27 votes.

Currently, there are 48 Democrats in the Assembly, and 32 Republicans. In the Senate, there are 24 Democrats, and 16 Republicans.

For the website of the New Jersey legislature, click here.

Now, you might be asking, what happens before the vote. So, let’s start from the beginning.

When a legislator writes a bill, the bill goes to the Speaker of the Assembly (in the Assembly) or the Senate President (in the Senate). The Speaker of the Assembly or Senate President then puts it in a Committee. A committee is a small group of legislators in that House that work on specific issues. The Tuition Equity bills, for example, are in the Assembly and Senate Higher Education Committees. For a list of Assembly Committees, click here. For a list of Senate Committees, click here.

The Committee makes any necessary changes to the bills, and then votes on them, “reporting them out” of Committee. Then it is the job of the Speaker of the Assembly or the Senate President to post the bill for a full vote of their House. A majority vote will allow each house to pass the bill.

Once a bill passes both houses, it goes to the Governor to be signed. If he signs it, it becomes law. If he doesn’t, then the Assembly and Senate can override the veto with a 2/3 vote.

And that is how a bill becomes a law in New Jersey. I hope you learned something.

One thought on “The Legislation

  1. Pingback: The Kickoff Rally in Trenton | Support Tuition Equity for Dreamers

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