The sponsor of a controversial bill that would have affected Fort Lewis College's American Indian student tuition
waiver fund said Thursday the legislation likely will be killed and that she never expected the fallout that occurred.
I expect it will go away completely," said Rep. Karen Middleton, D-Aurora, sponsor of House Bill 1067, a bill that
would have cut $1.8 million from FLC's budget.
She said her goal was to fix a budget crisis, but she was persuaded to rethink her bill after its intent became
twisted" by the news media.
My vision for this was not where this has landed. My goal was to actually realign how funding was going out to
colleges, and it's obviously not been taken that way," Middleton said. So now we're going to go back to the drawing
board to figure out a better way of approaching this."
Perfect," said Steve Schwartz, vice president of finance and administration at FLC. We appreciate the efforts of
(Colorado Department of Higher Education Director) Rico Munn and Representative Middleton to recognize the unique
history and heritage of Fort Lewis College, and we look forward to working with them on this issue in the future."
Legislators had expressed concern about the FLC tuition waiver's rising costs as the state cuts its own departments.
FLC enrolled 3,685 students in fall 2009, including 608 out-of-state American Indian students and 130 in-state
American Indian students.
Middleton said the bill was intended to be a first step in fixing the state budget, and stressed she was carrying the
bill for the Department of Higher Education. She said she didn't write or work on the bill and wasn't given critical
background information before she agreed to carry it.
It was sort of presented as a technical budget fix," she said. It was really a department bill."
Munn said he expects the bill either will be changed or pulled entirely.
I think it's fairly unfortunate that some people have either misunderstood or twisted the intent of what the bill
was trying to do," Munn said.
Instead of backing the bill, Munn's department will work with the Legislature's Joint Budget Committee to cap
out-of-state tuition rates at FLC for the next few years. Gov. Bill Ritter's budget request for 2010-11 already asked
that FLC - alone among Colorado colleges - not be allowed to raise its out-of-state tuition next year because of
growing expenses for the tuition waiver.
Rep. Ellen Roberts said the only solution fair and equitable to FLC would be scrapping the bill.
We learn our first year here at the Legislature that you can't make a bad bill good, and this is a bad bill from the
very start," she said.
All colleges, including FLC, still are in for substantial budget cuts caused by the recession. FLC leaders are
opposing Munn's plan to apportion the cuts because the method takes a bigger percentage cut from Fort Lewis than any
other college over the next two years.
More than 200 people attended a public meeting at FLC's Native American Center on Wednesday to organize against the
bill. FLC spokesman Mitch Davis said he received media inquiries from The New York Times and CBS News.
Sen. Bruce Whitehead and Roberts, who represent Durango and FLC, joined with two FLC alumni, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, and Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, to fight the bill. The four met with Middleton on Wednesday afternoon.
HB 1067 still is scheduled to be heard in the House Education Committee at 1:30 p.m. Monday.
FLC students were planning a show of force for the hearing. Between 150 and 170 students committed to travel the 236
miles to Denver on Sunday afternoon in order to protest the bill Monday, said FLC senior Robert Abshire, who is
helping organize the protest.
Middleton said that would be a premature move.
I'm kind of caught up in something right now that was unintentional," she said. I am truly sorry that the way this
bill has been presented has been felt so personally."
Abshire and other students were meeting Thursday night to go over logistics of their trip to Denver when they heard
the news. He said he was grateful legislators were willing to hear them out.
But they need to know we're still ready to go."