After more than four hours of debate, Gov. Nathan Deal’s legislation to alter some of the basic premises of the HOPE scholarship passed the Senate on a heavily partisan 35-20 vote this evening.
The House is expected to agree to all changes and give final passage on Thursday. We’ll let others cover the main points.
Democrats never stood a chance of stopping the legislation, but they have reason to remain upbeat. They were able to force Republicans to concede a number of changes to the bill. Perhaps more important, the HOPE debate saw the rise of two new Democratic leaders.
On the House side, newly elected House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams of Atlanta took a chance and negotiated directly with the governor over many points previously enumerated here.
In the Senate, the HOPE debate on Tuesday saw the debut of Jason Carter of Decatur, who took office last May in a special election. Carter grabbed the lead on the HOPE issue for Senate Democrats, crunching what numbers he and a small staff could persuade or wheedle out of a Republican administration.
On Monday, the day before the debate, the grandson of the former president sent a letter to all 55 of his colleagues, listing the number of high school students whose tuition costs are fully covered by HOPE – and who would still be covered if a Democratic plan to adopt income caps was passed.
The hard numbers found resonance with many rural Republicans. On Tuesday, Republicans proposed – and passed – an amendment aimed at those same rural senators. The top two graduates from every high school in the state will be offered full HOPE coverage of their tuition costs.
Carter had made his first trip to the well a week or so ago — a rite of passage for lawmakers, including Jimmy Carter. Jason Carter did it again on Tuesday, to argue for two of his own amendments to the HOPE legislation. Both were defeated. One would have grandfathered current HOPE recipients, allowing them to receive full tuition coverage for the remainder of their time in college.
But Carter handled himself effectively, impressing several Senate Republicans — and a House Republican or two who dropped in to watch.
“With his name, he could coast if he wanted to. But he’s not going to,” one of his Democratic friends in the chamber said.
“We feel that Jason has started very strong in our caucus,” Senate Democratic Leader Robert Brown of Macon said after the fight. “Going forward, part of our object is to bring on new talent.”
“I’m moving off the scene,” Brown said. “So are others. [Carter is] so close to the age of folks that are most affected.” By HOPE and many other things.
In the governor’s race last year, Brown noted that Roy Barnes strongest support came from voters 30 years old and younger.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider