By Sarah Mayhew
Arizona Daily Wildcat
PHOENIX _ A bill written by a UA student that had enough leg support to become law may have died yesterday when the House Appropriations Committee refused to hear the bill.
Rep. Bob Burns, R-Glendale, said that he had problems with the bill that were unanswered.
Patrick McWhortor, executive director of the Arizona Students' Association, a statewide student lobbying group, said that Burns told him last week that any questions he had were answered.
Senate Bill 1378, written by T.J. Trujillo, an accounting and finance junior and the president-elect of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, would establish a scholarship program promising a tuition waiver to third-graders who get good grades, stay out of trouble and can show financial need during their senior year in high school.
The waiver would enable these students to attend one of the state's universities, colleges or private schools.
And while the bill is now technically dead, supporters remained optimistic yesterday that somehow it will become law.
"We just had Easter," said Rep. Jeff Groscost, R-Mesa, "Obviously, resurrection can happen."
Still, time is running out because legislators have been pushing hard to finish the session within the next two weeks now that the budget is completed.
And Burns said that beyond any problems he has with the language of the bill, he just does not want to give the $333,000 to the scholarship fund that is listed in the bill. He also said he doubts it will be heard by the appropriations committee this session.
"When the checkbook's empty we can't keep writing checks," Burns said.
Five of the 15 committee members approved the bill in the Education Committee. The bill passed the Senate and the education committee with high praise from most of the legislators who heard the bill.
Those five, including Groscost and Education Committee Chairwoman Rep. Lisa Graham, R-Paradise Valley, said they would talk with Burns and try to get him to hear the bill next week. Both representatives were late to the meeting and had expected the bill to be heard.
Last week, McWhortor and the bill's sponsor, Sen. Bev Hermon, R-Tempe, fought to get the bill on the agenda.
At the last minute, they found out it would be included.
Groscost said he thought once the bill was on the agenda, it would be smooth sailing. Despite the bill being held, Groscost said he expects the bill to make it out of the Legislature this session.
"It'll get it back alive," Groscost said. "It's just going to take some work I didn't know we needed to invest."
The bill could be attached to another bill that would establish the Arizona Postsecondary Education Commission in statute by an amendment. But the commission failed to become a statutory government agency last session.
So far, the bill establishing the commission has passed through the legislature unquestioned and Graham does not want to attach a controversial bill onto the legislation, McWhortor said.
In the meantime, legislators and the students will try to get a commitment from Burns that the bill will be heard next week. They need that promise before the commission bill goes to the full House for approval, which could happen any day.
While Trujillo and McWhortor ask legislators and other groups to help the lobbying effort, Arizona Board of Regents spokeswoman Suzanne Pfister also said she would help.
Now Trujillo, who began writing the legislation last summer, said he would ask the UA Alumni Association for help and approach other interested groups.
"We're gonna try to rally the troops right now," Trujillo said. Read Next Article