N.J. DREAM Act advances on party lines, Democrats say bill will hit Christie’s desk

TRENTON – New Jersey Democratic lawmakers in both legislative chambers are signaling legislation will hit Gov. Chris Christie’s desk in the coming weeks that would allow undocumented students to both receive in-state tuition and be eligible for financial aid at state schools.

The proposal, which is known nationally as the DREAM Act, is currently making its way through both chambers in different forms. However, the bill’s Assembly sponsor told PolitickerNJ Thursday he will amend his proposal to “concur with what comes out” of the Senate, said Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-37).

“It’s important to get this bill signed before January,” he said, explaining his proposal will concur with the Senate in an effort to “push this [measure] forward.”

Currently, the Assembly version does not include a provision that would allow financial aid to undocumented immigrants attending state colleges. Sen. Teresa Ruiz’s (D-29) proposal does include both measures and is a favorite among DREAM Act proponents.

Ruiz’s proposal cleared its final hurdle Thursday before it will head to the Senate floor for a vote on Nov. 18. The bill cleared the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee following an 8-3 vote along party lines with one abstention.

Senate Republicans cited unintended consequences and an imperfect bill as reasons for opposing it. Some of the four GOP lawmakers sitting on the Senate panel indicated they may change their votes by the time it comes to the Senate floor.

Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-11) abstained.

Earlier today, the Assembly’s speaker-elect told reporters he favored a DREAM Act proposal that mirrored the Senate version but indicated the Assembly sponsor would be tasked with amending the proposal.

Johnson’s statements during the committee hearing signal the Senate version will be the likely proposal to hit Christie’s desk.

The governor signaled in a speech ahead of the election that he would support the legislation, but didn’t give details of what he would accept as a final product.

Senate President Steve Sweeney – who signed onto the proposal as a prime sponsor – substituted on the committee for Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-1).

The bill still needs to be voted on by the full Senate and make move through the General Assembly before it will land on Christie’s desk.

Following the vote along party lines, Ruiz would not speculate on whether GOP opposition would translate into the governor opposing some aspects of the bill.

“We took the first step and on Monday we’ll take the second,” she said.

N.J. DREAM Act advances on party lines, Democrats say bill will hit Christie’s desk