ASA members face hard sell in legislature

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

As the Arizona Students' Association prepares to lobby for its "most aggressive legislative agenda ever," members said they realize they may not be successful.

Ben Driggs, University of Arizona ASA delegate, said the organization is aware that their most aggressive bills, including pre-paid tuition plan and a state-based work study program, "will be tough to get passed this year."

The pre-paid plan, which was added to the organization's goals Saturday, would be modeled after a plan in effect in Florida. Parents could make monthly or yearly payments into an account that would be used to pay future tuition under current rates, Driggs said. About 200,000 parents have taken out pre-paid contracts under the Florida system.

However, the pre-paid bill has already been introduced to the state legislature twice and was not passed, Driggs said.

To fund the work-study plan, the legislature would need to appropriate $400,000 for the initial year, which would allow between 250 and 400 students to participate, Driggs said.

ASA plans to ask business leaders to testify in support of the work-study plan, he said.

He said ASA is attempting to find legislators to sponsor their bills.

"We are looking for sponsors in the majority (party) for all of our bills, because we know we won't be able to accomplish anything this year without majority support," Driggs said.

Representative Bev Hermon, R-Tempe, has supported ASA bills in the past, but her term expires in January since she ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives.

"The most important thing is to have an enthusiastic sponsor," Driggs said. "The success of our efforts will depend on if legislators are willing to push for it, but this year most of them won't because the public has told them not to increase government. There is a natural trend against big government and unfortunately people see the universities as part of that government."

Hermon said she thinks ASA will be able to find other sponsors for their legislative proposals.

However, she said ASA's success with the legislature will depend on its ability to gain public support for its proposals.

"It's hard to say what will happen (in the legislature). It depends on if there is public support for their ideas," Hermon said. "Similar ideas have passed in other states, so I'm sure their ideas will at least get a fair hearing."

Driggs said ASA does not expect to have immediate success.

"It is not an election year and legislators do not feel they need to pass things," he said. "They cannot be rushed into making decisions; they need to take time to be convinced. It takes awhile to build up a base of support for an idea."

Other ASA lobbying efforts with the Arizona Board of Regents have been at least partially successful already this year.

At the October meeting, the regents agreed to set tuition in January rather than in April this year, which the students lobbied for to give students more time to plan for any tuition increase.

The Campbell Commission, an Arizona Board of Regents committee, also agreed to to adopt an ASA proposal to establish a range that tuition increases must stay within.

However, ASA was unhappy that the commission did not establish any controls on the regents that require them to stay within the range. Driggs said the students still plan to ask the board to consider adopting the requirement that any increase over the set range must be approved by a "super-majority" two-thirds vote. ASA will also ask that the regents ask the state legislature to appropriate more financial aid money if the tuition is raised above the range.

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