By Tom Precious
ALBANY -– In a surprise move, the State Senate this evening is expected to bring to the floor the DREAM Act, the controversial proposal that would give state college financial aid to children of illegal immigrants.
The bill has passed for years in the Assembly, but been killed in the Senate. With the Senate led by a coalition of Republicans and several breakaway Democrats, the regular Democratic conference of the Senate, which is in the minority, has been raising political pressure to get the matter included in the state budget talks.
Time for political theories for why it might be coming up today.
Most seem to center around Sen. Jeff Klein, the co-leader of the Senate and a Bronx Democrat who has been taking a verbal beating from some Democrats for not being able to push the DREAM Act into law. The Senate budget resolution passed last week was silent on the Dream Act, while the Assembly included $25 million to get the program rolling this year. Lawmakers say Klein could be losing on a number of policy fronts that he has wanted to get inserted into the final state budget, and that the DREAM Act coming to the floor could be a pre-budget political present for him.
If the bill does come to the floor and fails, Klein, who could be facing a primary this fall, would be able to say he used his pressure to get Republicans to bring it to a vote, but that there just wasn’t enough support for it. Thus, the issue can take an exit from the budget talks.
If the bill passes, as Democrats are privately saying it will, Klein can boast it was his influence that made it happen.
Third, it could give Republicans, either way, some political points for the general election. They will use the potential yes votes by a few Senate Democrats facing possibly tough re-election races this fall as political points against them with conservative voters in those districts.
Stay tuned for one of those Albany evenings.