The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan, political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy.
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In April 2015, during the last session, this bill passed the Senate and all of the House committees. It passed the full House by a vote of 49 to 47, falling short of the required constitutional majority of 50 by one vote. Consequently, it will need to be re-introduced in the House this up-coming legislative session.
The League of Women Voters of Tennessee fully supports the passage of this bill. The bill will allow young Tennessee students who were brought to the U.S. by undocumented immigrant parents to attend Tennessee universities and colleges without having to pay out-of-state tuition as currently required. Out-of-state tuition often costs more than three times that of in-state tuition, making it virtually impossible for many of these Tennessee students to attend college.
In addition, these students are not eligible for any state or federal tuition assistance or scholarships. Meanwhile, their undocumented families pay all the taxes that other citizens pay. According to the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), undocumented residents of Tennessee paid over $157 million in state sales and property taxes in 2011 alone.
It should be noted that in-state college tuition is available for students who have lived in Tennessee for more than one year and who are U.S. citizens. Undocumented students can be granted this lawful status by applying for and receiving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). More than 9,000 undocumented Tennessee students have received DACA. Thousands more are currently in the application process. Another 8,000 will age into eligibility in the next decade. Providing these students with in-state tuition rates makes good sense for several reasons.
Our Tennessee educators and public school system have already invested heavily in the education of these students in grades K-12. Most of these immigrant children have lived in Tennessee their entire lives. They have attended Tennessee schools, played sports, joined clubs, and fully participated in Tennessee school life.
A better educated workforce is the best economic policy for Tennessee. A worker with a post-secondary degree makes $1.3 million more in his/her lifetime, adding substantially to Tennessee's productivity and tax base. Currently, fewer than 29 percent of Tennesseans 25 years and older hold a post-secondary degree and Governor Haslam has set a worthy goal of increasing that number to 55 percent by 2025. Passing the tuition equity bill is an essential step toward reaching that goal.
The League of Women Voters would like to thank those area legislators who have voted favorably for these students last April. We urge you to continue your support. For those legislators who did not vote for this bill, we hope that you will reconsider your position.
"In an electronic age, it makes sense to provide electronic registration if we have proper safeguards and validation steps," said Senator Yager. "This legislation provides those assurances to make voter registration more convenient for Tennesseans and hopefully encourages more citizens to participate in the election process."
Under Senate Bill 1626/House Bill 1742, the voter registration application would be reviewed electronically. If the request is confirmed to be valid, the new registration would be added to the state's voter registration list after being reviewed by the respective county election commission office. The validation step is done by comparing the information on the online registration form against the information provided by the same individual when he or she received a driver's license or their state-issued identification card.
Read the full Press Release here.
1. What was the greatest expansion of voting rights since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965?
2. What was one of the League of Women Voters' most important victories in our 95-year history?
Here's a hint--both questions have the same answer, and it was signed into law 22 years ago today.
It's the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA)!
More than 20 years since it was enacted, the NVRA remains an essential law that protects the integrity of federal elections across the country, while also making voter registration easy and accessible for millions of Americans.
The League was a key player in the passage of the law, which has greatly improved our voter registration work.
The vision that drove the passage of NVRA is simple: the more people who vote, the stronger our democracy.
That simple vision is at the heart of everything the League does. It's a vision we'll keep fighting for. For 95 years, we've worked to help new voters engage with their government and to empower people to tackle the most important issues facing our communities. The League continues to be at the forefront of helping voters register to vote, cast their ballot and make sure that vote is counted.
Thank you for Making Democracy Work!
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