Second student regent, McGrath bill failures called session high
100-day session closed late Tuesday night
PHOENIX-ASUA President Cisco Aguilar said the highlights of the 100-day legislative session that ended late Tuesday night are the addition of a second, non-voting student regent to the Arizona Board of Regents and the early failures of bills that would have regulated dorm room visitors and campus Internet use.
"It's amazing to work with legislators who really care about the universities," Aguilar said, praising Sen. Linda Aguirre, D-Phoenix, and Rep. Mike Gardner, R-Tempe, for their support.
The second student regent will take office in the summer of 2001 and will be able to vote after a year.
"It takes the student regent the first year to really understand the board of regents," Aguilar said.
The state Senate also confirmed Republican Gov. Jane Hull's three regent nominees, Christina Palacios, Gary Stuart and student regent Mary Echeverria.
Four bills - all sponsored by Rep. Jean McGrath, R-Glendale - that faced heavy student opposition failed early in the session.
"We're ecstatic that the McGrath bills didn't go any further than they did," Aguilar said.
The bills would have limited dorm room visitors, required filtering software or programs on university computers, prohibited the non-educational use of campus computers and required accurate course descriptions in course catalogs.
Aguilar said he regrets that the legislature did not increase its contribution to the Arizona Financial Aid Trust Fund and that it did not fund ASPIRE, a program to give full in-state tuition to some disadvantaged students.
He said that a part of each student's tuition is paid into the trust fund and the legislature matches the payments dollar-for-dollar. Aguilar had hoped the legislature would agree to pay $5 for every student dollar so the fund payments could be made off the interest, he said.
ASPIRE was instituted by the legislature eight years ago, promising well-behaved, disadvantaged third graders a full in-state tuition upon acceptance to an Arizona university, he said. The legislature has not yet funded the program.
Greg Fahey, UA's lobbyist, is looking forward to next year's biennial budget session.
"Their money really wasn't there for much," Fahey said. "I'm hoping next year will be a focused year for higher education."
Fahey said he would like to see pay raises for university employees, especially faculty, and funding to convert state university television stations to digital technology.
He expressed support for Hull's plan to increase the sales tax to fund education, though the plan is in its infancy. Hull may call the legislature in to a special session to discuss her sales tax plan.
The universities could get 12 percent of the money, about $44 million, in the first year and 7 percent more each year thereafter, he said. The money from the sales tax would supplement the money provided in the general fund.
He said the "new economy" being discussed by the governor's task forces on higher education and on the new economy is critical to university funding decisions.
The new economy is the use of computer technology to move large quantities of information very quickly, he said. Fields including management information systems, optics and biotechnology are part of the new economy.
Fahey also said he was pleased at the failure of a bill extending the protection offered to university employees who expose corruption. The universities have said they oppose the protections because their policies already protect whistle-blowers.
Kristen Roberts can be reached at Kristen.Roberts@wildcat.arizona.edu.