|Brophy votes with Dems for ASSET bill|
|Written by Marianne Goodland|
It was only about six minutes long.
“We’ve been discussing this bill down here for about as long as I’ve been here. I have never voted” for it. With that, Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray) began what one legislator called the best speech of his career.
Monday, Feb. 25, three state Senate Republicans, including Brophy, voted along with 22 Democrats to pass Senate Bill 13-033, known as ASSET, Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow.
The bill allows an illegal immigrant who graduates from a Colorado high school the opportunity to obtain instate tuition, so long as the student files an affidavit that he/she intends to seek lawful immigration status.
Two of those Senate Republicans had already stated they would support ASSET: Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Pueblo) and Sen. Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs), who had previously voted for the bill in the Senate Education Committee. But it was Brophy, a senior member of the Senate Republican caucus, who took many by surprise with his remarks during second reading debate on ASSET on Feb. 22.
“I’ve come to know many of the kids who would benefit from the passage of this bill. I have a hard time making principled arguments against it, knowing that there’s some pretty great kids out there who will benefit from it,” Brophy told his Senate colleagues.
What triggered the change of heart? Brophy said some of it has taken place in the more than 10 years that he has represented the people of eastern Colorado, in seeing and getting to know the kids who live there. But one of the final pieces fell into place last year, during the Republican presidential primaries, when one of the candidates said that people in this country illegally should go home or self-deport.
“I thought of that in terms of the kids I know, in Kit Carson, Burlington and Wray,” Brophy said. “They are home. That is their home. They play Wii, Xbox, football, baseball or participate in that European socialist sport, soccer. They can’t leave here to go home because they are home. And if they are home they should avail themselves of the same opportunities as the other kids they go to school with.”
On his Facebook page, Brophy explained another argument that helped convince him that the time to vote for ASSET had come.
“Families with modest incomes that have been here for years, whether they have come from Michigan or Mexico, are effectively net tax recipients. A family of four or five making median household income on the Plains pays no income tax. Period. It doesn’t matter if they are here legally or not. They all pay sales taxes, property taxes etc., though. They are all paying into the system and that is all that is required, that and living here for at least a year to get in-state tuition for college.
“If one cares to break out of the earning group that doesn’t pay taxes and become a net taxpayer, one who pays more in taxes than receives in benefits. The best way is through education. Go to college. Maximize that human capital; pursue happiness. I believe that’s the stage two thinking principle that matters.
Our Founders wrote that we have certain inalienable rights, one of those is the pursuit of happiness. The ability to own the fruits of your labor; in most cases, those fruits are greater if you are educated.”
A few of Brophy’s colleagues in the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, have known for about a month that he was planning to vote for SB 33, although for others, it was a surprise.
Sen. Ted Harvey (R-Highlands Ranch) has spent 12 years in the Legislature alongside Brophy on many issues. He called Brophy’s comments during the Feb. 22 debate “the best speech he’s ever given.” Harvey pointed out that Brophy gave his entire remarks without notes. “He’s obviously given it a lot of thought. That said, he’s dead wrong,” Harvey said with a smile.
Bill sponsor Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) was less willing to give Brophy credit for being a trail-blazer among his Republican colleagues, given the previous vote by Hill and public statements earlier in the session by Crowder. But she said she was surprised when she first heard Brophy was planning to change his previous opposition, and acknowledged that the three Senate Republicans will get a lot of “pushback” for their votes.
Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud), who shares an office with Brophy at the capitol, said he was unaware that Brophy would vote for the bill until his Senate speech. “I clearly disagree with him. It’s the first step toward amnesty,” he said this week.
One commenter on the liberal blog Colorado Pols put it this way: “You’ve got to be kidding me. Brophy? CROWDER?”
Brophy sat down this week to talk about the impact of his vote. “It would become a potential issue should I choose to run for another office, and have a primary.” Brophy had warned his Republican colleagues during the Feb. 22 debate that voting for ASSET would be risky and would take courage. “I wasn’t kidding when I said on the floor that Republicans who vote for this do so at their own political peril,” he said.
So far, his Facebook page has garnered 80 comments on his vote, split fairly evenly between those who supported the vote and those who were against it. Brophy also noted that one person questioned his integrity, although the man later apologized.
“What I get out of this? I get to have my integrity and values questioned, and an issue that can be used against me in any future race.” But then he smiled, and said, “I get to look at myself in the mirror and know I did the right thing.”
SB 33 passed the House Education Committee on a 9-4 vote on Feb. 27, with two House Republicans, Reps. Brian DelGrosso (R-Loveland) and Kevin Priola (R-Henderson) voting with the committee’s seven Democrats. The bill is now awaiting action from the House Appropriations Committee.
Holyoke Enterprise March 7, 2013