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Bill Debate Pits Military Families Against Low-Income Ones

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

A seemingly uncontroversial bill to help Texas colleges pay for veterans’ tuition got House members worked up today over who needs more dollars -- need-based students or military heroes?

House Bill 690 by State Rep. Tryon Lewis, R-Odessa, would allow the Higher Education Coordinating Board to divvy up state money, set aside to fund the Hazlewood legacy program. It pays for the tuition benefit of certain veterans and their dependents.

State Rep. Allen Fletcher says that program is cash strapped. He filed an amendment that would take millions from a fund for low-income students and put it towards those students who qualify for Hazlewood.

"I know that the men and women of our nation that have fought for our freedoms and fought for this country have used up the GI benefits and used up the federal benefits to try and make sure their kids have a chance to succeed and themselves have a chance to succeed," Rep. Fletcher said.

But he withdrew the amendment when the issue got too partisan, he says. State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, thanked him for that.

"The problem is taking it from a needs-based program and converting it to a non-needs based program causes everybody here a little bit of heartburn," Rep. Dutton said. "But I want to thank you for pulling it down."

The bill passed 134 to 2 and goes now to the Senate. 

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