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Colorado AG Sets Up Tuition Showdown

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John Suthers (credit: coloradoattorneygeneral.gov)

John Suthers (credit: coloradoattorneygeneral.gov)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers issued an opinion on Tuesday that said that state schools do not have the authority to create a new tuition rate for illegal immigrants, directly opposing the recent move by Metro State. However, an opinion from an Attorney General is not the same as a ruling from a court. While AG John Suthers is the top lawyer in the state, his opinions are non-binding.

But, John Suthers is still the Attorney General of the state of Colorado and a state school ignores him at their own risk.

So now AG Suthers sets up a fairly high profile showdown where either a state school will choose to ignore his opinion, or seek out support from other high profile state leaders.

I think it will be interesting to watch whom, if anyone, comes to Metro State’s defense for making a decision to push the issue. What will also be interesting to see is if anyone decides to file a lawsuit against Metro State, based on the legal opinion issued by AG Suthers.

I’m not a lawyer, nor have I ever played one on TV, so I am unclear on who would be assigned to defend a state school if they were sued by an independent party. The only thing I do know is that it would be a very entertaining situation.

But before any ideas of a lawsuit come into play, we should revisit the concept of whom, if anyone will come to the defense of Metro State’s move.

High profile Republicans have already lined up to criticize the move. State Representative Cheri Gerou has already claimed the school worked around the legislature and even predicted that the school will suffer repercussions once the legislature reconvenes. And of course, the state’s highest ranking Republican, AG John Suthers has made his opinion known. It should be noted that the Colorado Community College System asked him for his opinion, but he has still made it known.

But to date, we haven’t seen public stands from high ranking Democrats on this issue. Former Colorado Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll said that Suthers’ opinion supported his ideological beliefs, and not the law. But besides Carroll, high ranking Dems have been curiously quiet.

Presumably there is strong Democratic support for the idea since the ASSET bill passed the State Senate and reportedly would have been signed by Governor Hickenlooper if it passed the State House. But if this support exists, where is it now that Metro State needs it most?

The reality may be that while some high ranking Democrats support the idea, they may be saving their political capital for a bigger fight. That might seem a bit crass as Metro State twists slowly in the public eye, but the extended strategy might work out for the Dems.

Why fight a very public battle over an issue that probably should be decided in the legislature when you can concentrate on simply winning the State House back and putting it into law next year?

Maybe I am giving State Dems too much credit, but as a party, Colorado Democrats have excelled in political strategy over the last few election cycles. And Governor John Hickenlooper is widely considered to be a very savvy politician. I can’t imagine a scenario where all of that simply goes to waste.

But until someone comes forward, it looks like Metro State will faceoff with Attorney General John Suthers in the public and legal arena by itself. They may still come out victorious, or they may have to retract the policy. But whatever the outcome this year, if State Dems have their way, Metro may be able to adopt the policy free and clear with the legislature’s blessing in 2013.
About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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