ALBANY -- With voting largely along party lines, a bill to establish the Dream Act failed by two votes Monday in the State Senate.
The New York Dream Act would have given people in the country illegally who came here as children access to state college tuition-assistance programs. The bill generated more "yes" votes than "no" in the politically split chamber, 30-29 -- but it failed because 32 votes are needed to pass any bill in the 63-seat chamber.
There are two current Senate vacancies and two Long Island senators missed the vote: Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) and Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City). Boyle was excused to attend a family funeral; he would have opposed the bill. No reason was given for Hannon's absence.
No member of the all-Republican Long Island State Senate delegation voted for the measure.
Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), who was considered a key swing vote by both sides, said he was sympathetic to potential beneficiaries. But he cited the bill's potential fiscal impact and noted that the state already helps undocumented students by giving them in-state college tuition rates. He said the bill wasn't limited to students brought here by their parents.
"Let's be frank, this bill opens the door far wider than that," Martins said. "Under the bill, you could come here as an adult tomorrow, get your GED and apply for" the state's tuition-assistance plan.
Sen. Ted O'Brien (D-Rochester) was the lone Democrat to vote "no."
Senate co-leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) and the other four members of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, who control the Senate with the Republicans, got the bill to the floor. Klein said granting access to tuition assistance was a key to immigrants becoming successful citizens and urged his colleagues to "stand up with these students to give them a shot." Mainline Democrats criticized Klein for failing to generate enough "yes" votes.
"Senate Co-Leader Klein was incapable of achieving the bipartisan support that was essential for the Dream Act to pass due to the current composition of the state Senate," Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said in a statement.
The Democrat-dominated Assembly approved the bill, which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he'd sign if the Senate passed it.