Sara Wielenberg | Staff Writer | 2-10-2012
BSU’s Lobby Corp spent their first day at the capital on January 31st. The three-student team of Arlene Cuthrell, Joe Vito Moubry, and Sarah Shepherd tackled three main issues: Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) projects, Voter ID, and the Textbook Taskforce.
The Lobby Corp was created last semester with the goal of lobbying for student issues. “One of our goals,” says Shepherd, “is to educate legislators on these issues so that they can make decisions that will not harm students.”
Early on they met with Representative David Hancock concerning the HEAPR bonding. HEAPR money is for the general upkeep and repair on existing campus buildings. The governor’s bonding proposal in January caused some concern over this issue. The request MnSCU made was for $278 million. In the 2011 legislative session, $30 million was allocated for HEAPR projects. According to Jonathon Bohn, Director of Government Relations for MSUSA, “There is a great need for a significant investment in this area.”
New buildings receive two-thirds of their funding from the state. The other third is covered by the college or university which means budget money or raising tuition. Bohn says, “Higher education is the only state entity that must provide one-third of the funding for new buildings.” HEAPR funding, provided fully by the state, allows for repairs on existing buildings without risking tuition increases.
Voter ID Bill
The Voter ID bill would require voters to present a photo ID. It is proposed as a constitutional amendment. According to Shepherd, “If it is pushed through it could cause a hindrance for students being able to vote. At the time there are just too many questions on how it will affect students.”
The bill would get rid of same-day registration and the vouching option. The vouching process means that a student whose name is on the bills for a house s/he shares with multiple students can vouch for the others who live in the house.
Some fear that the Voter ID bill would affect the number of students who vote as it would make it more difficult for them. Bohn even says point blank, “This proposed constitutional amendment will reduce the number of students that vote.”
According to Moubry, “The main thing we are trying to do with Voter ID is to make sure that the bill goes through the regular legislative process so that it is fully thought out.”
Textbook Taskforce Proposal
The final issue the Lobby Corp dealt with on their first trip to the capital was the Textbook Taskforce proposal. The Lobby Corp asked Senator Carlson to author a Textbook Taskforce bill. In Moubry’s simple explanation, “If the Textbook Taskforce bill passes, then a taskforce with every stake-holder—just meaning anyone that is affected by textbooks, like students, teachers, college bookstores, etc.—will have to come up with a way to get students the best price for textbooks.”
The goal of the Textbook Taskforce will be to lower costs and give students quality textbooks. One of the ideas the Taskforce would be asked to explore is a textbook sharing system that would allow textbook sharing across campuses. Other items include the use of e-books and the ways those technologies can be brought to students. Bohn says, “The Taskforce should be scheduled to make recommendations to the legislature on January 15th, 2013.”
Shepherd says their first day of lobbying was both successful and a learning experience. Their goals included making connections, voicing student concerns, and obtaining an author for the Textbook Taskforce bill. Shepherd feels all these goals were met with great success.
“We were able to discuss the issues with legislators and make connections with legislators so that when issues come up we are welcomed to talk to them,” says Shepherd. “We were able to have sit-down conversations with most of the legislators where we were able to voice our concerns….Our goal to get an author for the Textbook Taskforce Bill was also reached with great excitement.”