Between House Education and Senate Education this morning, seven of the dozen or so bills aimed at lottery scholarship fund solvency were heard. It looks like their consideration will result in still more bills.
Members of Senate Education, wanting a voice in how a solvency plan is crafted, determined they would come up with a committee substitute that incorporates elements from the four bills heard this morning as well as others yet to be heard. House Education will see if some bill sponsors can combine their bills, while other sponsors have chosen to go solo in House Appropriations without a committee recommendation. None of these paths will be easy to negotiate given the varying elements being considered and the steadily ticking clock.
A couple of bills on the Senate side want to freeze a recipient’s tuition at the rate given when the scholarship is first awarded. Another gives higher awards to students in their third or fourth year as they close in on a degree. This is called “backloading.” Some raise credit hours per semester, others decrease the number of semesters being awarded, while others cap awards. Yet another, from Sen. Bill Payne (R-Albuquerque), keeps all current criteria but distributes the money to institutions and allows boards of regents to determine how it will be distributed to students.
NMSU student leader Jeremy Witte, speaking for student leaders statewide, told Senate Education that students agree on decoupling the scholarship from tuition, raising credit hours per semester to 15 and ensuring that all current students are grandfathered into the current system.
Quote of the morning: Senate Education Chair John Sapien (D-Corrales), contemplating the creation of a committee substitute from all of these bills, remarked that it is “always a good dance.” That seems more palatable then the “sausage-making” usually referenced.
House Bill 2, the General Appropriations Act, remains on the Speaker’s table and still waits another vote by the full House. The first vote Friday failed on a tie vote.