Looking for a way to attack a fellow Republican in a hard-fought primary contest? How about a 2005 vote on illegal immigration?
Aaron Bean, a former House member, is challenging Rep. Mike Weinstein for the redrawn state Senate seat that covers residents outside of Jacksonville and all of Nassau County. The primary is Aug. 14.
A pro-Weinstein group, Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics, launched the attack with a commercial saying, "Bean voted for in-state tuition breaks for illegal immigrants."
"That’s right. Bean voted to give illegal immigrants in-state tuition breaks, a policy supported by liberals like Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi and opposed by conservatives like Rick Scott and Mike Weinstein," the ad says. "Aaron Bean: Wrong on illegal immigration. Wrong for Jacksonville."
An outraged Bean responded in an interview with Rich Jones of Jacksonville radio station WOKV.
"It’s disappointing when they don’t tell the truth," Bean said. "Just this week, they’re making just crazy claims that Aaron Bean is in favor of illegal aliens getting reduced tuition, and nothing, Rich, could be further from the truth. Never have supported that, never will support that. But that’s the claim that the other side is making in our race, and that’s just crazy."
Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics blasted missives to the Florida Times-Union and Miami Herald that questioned Bean’s recollection of the vote. In a written statement, Bean’s spokeswoman tried to quell the drama by saying Bean did not believe the legislation extended benefits to illegal immigrants.
"To avoid any future confusion let me be clear, Aaron Bean did not support extending any benefits to illegal immigrants," spokeswoman Sarah Bascom said. "He did not then, and he does not now."
The emphatic denials led to another commercial from Floridians for Truth and Ethics in Politics. The group, an electioneering communication organization chaired by Republican consultant Mike Hanna, accused Bean of lying about the tuition discounts for illegal immigrants and of voting two years later to give illegal aliens health insurance subsidies.
With so much back-and-forth, we wanted to dive into the Senate District 4 race and examine the claim that started it all: "Aaron Bean voted for in-state tuition breaks for illegal immigrants."
Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics (a mouthful) is not directly part of Weinstein’s campaign, but it has received all of its money this cycle from a fundraising group controlled by Weinstein, reported the Florida Times-Union.
The ad cites a bill from the 2005 legislative session as backup for its claim that Bean voted to give illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates. The proposal, HCB 6005, was a combination of several education-oriented bills, and Bean signed on as a cosponsor.
Among the proposal’s offerings: creating a program to offer discounted computers and Internet access for students; expanding the capacity of Florida nursing programs; and allowing community colleges to offer some baccalaureate degree programs.
One part (originating from H 119, which Bean did not co-sponsor) would have allowed for certain undocumented students to apply for in-state college tuition rates.
Those students would have had to fulfill the following requirements, according to a nonpartisan House analysis:
• Lived in Florida with a parent for at least three consecutive years immediately before receiving a diploma from a Florida high school
• Enrolled and registered in a community college or state university
• Given the institution a sworn affidavit stating he or she will apply for permanent U.S. residency
• Submitted an application for the exemption
The out-of-state tuition exemption would have been available only to the state’s top 2,000 highest performing undocumented students.
"People think that students are asking for scholarships. They don’t realize that it means the students that have lived in the state and graduated from our high schools are paying more," said Karen Woodall, executive director of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy. "It’s not a handout."
The measure passed the House by a whopping 113-2 vote. House Republicans who voted yes that day include Sen. Marco Rubio, current Speaker Dean Cannon, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and U.S. Reps. David Rivera and Sandy Adams. Oh, and Aaron Bean.
The Senate did not take up the measure. Current Senate President Mike Haridopolos took a hard-line approach back then, telling the Tampa Tribune "If you get an in-state tuition rate, it's 75 percent off. That 75 doesn't come out of thin air. It comes from hard-working Floridians and taxpayers … They have proven to be outstanding workers. They work hard and help our economy run, but there are rules. Illegal is illegal."
In an interview with the Times-Union, Bean reportedly said he did not know the provision was part of the 100-page bill.
"The bill did a lot of things," Bean said, according to an Aug. 3 Times-Union story. "If I knew there was the tuition thing in there, I would not have voted for it."
We can't let Bean off so easy. Yes, the final combined bill was 100 pages and spanned many education topics. But all Bean had to do was read the bill analysis, published on April 27, 2012, the day after the combined bill was filed. The analysis shows the big bill clearly incorporated the language of HB 119 and outlined the requirements for undocumented students to receive in-state tuition rates.
Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics says "Bean voted for in-state tuition breaks for illegal immigrants."
It's true that in 2005, Bean voted for a wide-ranging House bill that would have allowed up to 2,000 undocumented students to receive in-state tuition rates.
But only some undocumented students would have received the in-state tuition rates -- specifically, high-achieving students who lived in Florida and graduated from Florida high schools.
Whether Bean meant to vote for the bill is a different story. Sometimes legislators sneak provisions into bills at the last minute that go unnoticed. We don't see any evidence that happened here. Bean is responsible for knowing what is inside the bills that earn his votes, even if they are long.
This claim is accurate but needs a little clarification. We rate it Mostly True.