For the second time, a bill that would render colleges and universities ineligible for state funding if they "formally enacted or informally adopted" policies that did not comply with federal immigration laws -- so-called "sanctuary policies" for undocumented immigrants -- failed in committee.
Rep. Brandt Smith (R-Jonesboro), lead sponsor of House Bill 1042, testified, "We're lawmakers for crying out loud. We believe in the rule of law ... . This is not about immigration. This is about recognizing the rule of law."
Smith presented his bill in an extended session of the House Education Committee, which met for a second time Thursday after the full House adjourned for the day. Only 11 members were present, which meant one no vote was all that was needed to kill the bill. The vote was 5-5.
"It's just not needed," said Rep. DeAnn Vaught (R-Horatio), who voted against the bill twice. "We already have federal laws in place. Why create fear for no reason?"
Earlier in the day, Rep. Bruce Cozart (R-Hot Springs), chair of the House Education Committee, said he would vote no, but said he changed his mind after hearing Smith present his bill a second time.
"It's hard to vote no on that when you are talking about the laws that are already in place, and we're going to try to say no, we're going to go against them?" Cozart said.
When Smith presented the bill the first time in committee earlier in February, the room was packed and the hallway outside of the room was filled with people carrying signs against the bill. But the committee room was practically empty Thursday. Smith had said he would not present his bill again in committee after it failed to pass the first time.
Cozart said the bill cannot run in committee again this session.