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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.
Senate kills veteran tuition bill
SB44 » Senate leaders say it wasn’t needed; Democrats criticize.
First Published Feb 24 2012 05:09 pm • Last Updated Feb 24 2012 11:07 pm

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."

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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."

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Twitter: @davemontero

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