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DREAM Act passes Assembly again, still faces hurdles in state Senate

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: DREAM Act passes Assembly again, still faces hurdles in state Senate
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- The state Assembly, dominated by New York City Democrats, passed the DREAM Act for the second year in a row.

But it still has obstacles to overcome in the state Senate where Republican co-leader Dean Skelos opposes it.

"I think the onus is on every member of the senate in a bi-partisan fashion to support the dream act that's morally right, economically right and the right thing to do for the children of this state," said state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan.

But complicating matters in the upper house is that not every Democrat supports the bill. But labor leaders have been applying pressure on some lawmakers.

"We've spoken to them and they know the position of the state AFL-CIO on this and we will continue to speak to them to make sure they vote the right way on this," said Mario Cilento, of the NYS AFL-CIO.

Sources say there had been four Senate Democrats opposed, but now it's down to just one, Ted O'Brien, of Rochester. Gov. Andrew Cuomo was asked earlier this month if he would sign the bill, but seemed to doubt its chances of getting to his desk.

"On the DREAM act, do I expect it to pass? If the votes get there it will pass," Cuomo said on Feb. 12, adding that he would sign it if it does pass.

Republicans who have challenged the governor over a controversial program to provide college classes to prison inmates, say state tuition assistance should first go to those who play by the rules.

"The priorities are backwards here. We should be focusing on people who are struggling. Middle class, American students and legal immigrants who are struggling and graduating with $26,000 average debt," said Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.

Silver says they have budgeted about $27 million for the DREAM Act, but it will likely be negotiated behind closed doors. Silver refused to say whether he would accept a state budget that does not include funding for the DREAM Act.

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