TRENTON – Senate President Steve Sweeney signed on as a prime sponsor of legislation that would allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition and be eligible for financial aid at state schools.
Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-29), the bill’s sponsor, which is known nationally as the DREAM Act, said Wednesday the Senate’s top lawmaker plans to throw his support behind the proposal when it appears before committee Thursday. The bill, S2479, allows undocumented immigrants attending state colleges to qualify for in-state tuition.
“We’re really talking about moving this state and this country forward,” Ruiz said.
“As of recently, our Senate president has become a prime sponsor of this bill and so his name will appear on tomorrow’s agenda,” Ruiz said. “He has been a partner.”
Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee members are slated to vote on the bill Thursday. It’s the only bill appearing on the panel’s agenda.
The committee discussion comes after sources said support for the bill’s financial aid stipulation was in jeopardy. Officials, speaking to PolitickerNJ on the condition of anonymity, indicated the state financial aid aspect of the proposal was a tough sell even among fellow Democrats – let along the state’s newly elected Republican governor.
However, Ruiz told PolitickerNJ she’s optimistic about her proposal garnering support and said the legislation will be heard in committee as it’s written (with the exception of amendments that will correct certain technical unattended consequences of the bill).
Ahead of the recent election, Gov. Chris Christie signaled he would support the legislation, but didn’t give details of what he would accept as a final product.
More recently, mayors of 10 New Jersey cities called on the Legislature to adopt Ruiz’s proposal. The mayors announced their support in a letter that was signed by mayors representing some of the state’s largest cities, including Newark, Jersey City, Elizabeth and Camden.