Senate kills veteran tuition bill
SB44 • Senate leaders say it wasn’t needed; Democrats criticize.
Published: February 25, 2012 06:58PM
Updated: February 24, 2012 11:07PM
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Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune Army Major General (Ret.) Peter Cooke held a press conference outside the State Capitol, Friday February 24, 2012 to object to the treatment veterans were getting as a result of the failure to pass Senator Luz robles' SB44 - GI Bill Tuition Gap Coverage.

SB44 • Sen. Luz Robles saw her bill that would have extended tuition benefits to military veterans fail Friday in the Utah Senate on a 14-11 vote, leaving the Salt Lake City Democrat incredulous and bewildered after the measure had sailed through previous votes.

“I don’t understand what happened,” Robles said. “I’m in shock.”

The measure, SB44, passed its committee unanimously and its second reading — where senators often debate legislation — 26-1. It would’ve allowed for the state to fund a gap between federal funds military veterans apply for when attempting to obtain a bachelor’s degree at the university level.

It had a fiscal note of $250,000, with money coming out of the general fund.

The Senate’s rejection of the measure also troubled retired Army Maj. Gen. Peter Cooke, a Democratic candidate for governor, who issued a statement critical of the Republican-controlled Legislature.

“This sends a message to the Department of Defense that Utah may no longer be a military-friendly state,” Cooke said. “This attack on our proudly serving Utah servicemen and women is dangerous, ill-timed and very unfortunate. It must stop.”

Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said he voted against the measure because he believed the funds could be used elsewhere.

And Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said there was still a bill by Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, that tackled education for military personnel. His bill, HB124, would grant in-state tuition to military personnel assigned to Utah. It passed in the House 69-0 and is assigned to a Senate committee.

Robles said the bill was needed by her constituents.

“I have a lot of young veterans in my district,” she said. “They are trying to finish school, and this was a way to help them while giving Utah an educated, skilled workforce.”

dmontero@sltrib.com

Twitter: @davemontero