Kahn: committee position not necessary

There are other ways to influence policy on behalf of students.

by Phyllis Kahn, State representative


A March 29 Minnesota Daily editorial, “Kahn must fight for students,” demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the internal working of the Legislature. I challenge the authors to name a significant piece of legislation initiated from the Higher Education Committee since the decision to add a student to the Board of Regents in 1976. The committee functions best not as an originator of ideas, but as a funnel for the positions of the higher education institutions. It is also a great forum for enunciation of the policies of the higher education players in the state. The University of Minnesota must treasure its constitutional autonomy from the state government and hope for as little legislative interference as possible.

A legislator can exert influence without being a member of a specific legislative committee. For example, when the University’s Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition, an organization of student representatives from all five University campuses, proposed adding their chair to the Office of Higher Education Student Advisory Committee, I did it. It is in the House Higher Education Omnibus bill — on its way to passage, hopefully. It is not in the Senate bill, even though members of the Higher Education Committee in that body worked very hard to get it included.

Another way to get students’ ideas into legislation is student contact. I was contacted by Taylor Williams with his excellent idea for a medical amnesty bill. The bill would allow a person to get medical attention for a student who may have been over drinking without endangering the concerned student who calls for assistance.

I suggest the Editorial Board let me make the decisions of where my talents are best used, remembering that passing legislation and budgets is a complex matter going beyond individual committee membership.