Surprisingly, I found myself defending Texas Governor Rick Perry after he was lambasted by New Hampshire Republicans for a Texas bill that provides in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. It was a reminder of the recent nonsense in the previous New Hampshire legislative session, and I hope, not a sign of more nonsense to come.
During public appearances, Perry fought off criticism for his 2001 bill that allows undocumented students to attend Texas state colleges/universities at the in-state tuition rate. These students must meet residency requirements and have graduated from a Texas high school to qualify. Statistics show the law qualified an additional one percent of Texan students for in-state tuition.
This poses several questions. Why are New Hampshire conservative Republicans so concerned about a Texas issue, especially since Perry opposes the federal DREAM Act? Am I unaware of Canadian students plotting to cross the border and pay the astronomical New Hampshire in-state tuition rates – twice the national average – if a similar law were enacted? Are these conservatives aware it's cheaper for New Hampshire residents to pay out-of-state tuition at UMASS-Lowell than it is to attend UNH at an in-state tuition rate?
Conservatives should be concerned with tuition costs of New Hampshire state colleges and universities. Instead of challenging Perry on a Texas law, wouldn't it been better to ask how Texas provides in-state tuition $2,000 cheaper than New Hampshire, all while still extending the benefits to undocumented students?
I don't understand the time and energy – we all know time equals money – wasted by some conservatives on issues that have no relevance, many of which were addressed in the previous state legislative session. Voters in 2010 heard over and over that the election was all about fiscal sanity. Instead, we got a load of social policy insanity, a bevy of time spent trying to repeal bills addressing marriage equality, cyber bullying and student voting rights.
Rep. Daniel Itse (Fremont –R) took it over the edge though. He sponsored a bill to form a permanent state defense force, or militia, aimed "to defend this state from invasion, rebellion, disaster, insurrection, riot, breach of the peace or imminent danger thereof." New Hampshire already has a well-trained and funded National Guard. Its 2800-plus members have proven more than capable of responding to natural disasters and have yet to face any "invasion" or "rebellion." Moreover, the "militia" was estimated to cost up to half a million dollars annually – quite an irresponsible request at a time the University of New Hampshire faced the budget axe. So much for that fiscal sanity.
Conservatives continue to call for government cuts, many of which are warranted. Yet, Itse is trying to create a duplicate "rag-tag" government organization far less effective than the National Guard or the revamped Federal Emergency Management Agency. Perhaps he is actually concerned a Texas-like in-state tuition bill could pass at the state or federal level. Then, his proposed militia would have an important role combating the invasion of Canadian citizens looking to take advantage of expensive tuition rates.
Politicians often claim they want to fix America so it will be a better place for their "children." So start spending more time on the issues that matter; finding ways to better educate our children, reforming entitlement programs to ensure their survival, maximizing benefits/services within a balanced budget or attracting business and industry to expand the state's job growth.
It's time for legislators to stop fighting yesterday's battles and start addressing the problems of today and the future. The majority of our generation – and now America – does not care who our friends, relatives or neighbors marry. We understand that if "Bob" and "John" get married, it has no impact on our wallets or any other part of our life. However, we are concerned with the job market and the $50,000 to $150,000 in college loan debt we will carry into our adult lives; a financial concern many current retirees did not have to face.
Perry isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he understood the economic logic of the in-state tuition bill. He knew it was foolish to invest in primary and secondary education of undocumented students – federal law requires it – only to create barriers for their higher education. It's quite rational to complete the investment, create a path to citizenship and produce productive community members.
Regardless of ideology, Perry did what was best for Texas. It is hypocritical to criticize him for a states' right initiative, which is a foundation of Republican thought. If New Hampshire House Republicans – or all politicians for that matter – approach the next legislative session in a similar fashion, the state will be far better off.