Lobby Day extends annual invitation beyond students

Molly Moker

The University will turn its lobbying efforts up a notch Wednesday when students, faculty, alumni and other supporters head to the State Capitol to rally for increased University funding.

For the first time, the University’s Legislative Network will help the Minnesota Student Association and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly organize a University of Minnesota Lobby Day.

The network is a statewide group of about 10,000 alumni, faculty, staff, students and community supporters.

The event, previously run by MSA and GAPSA for students only, is now open to anyone who wants to support the University.

At the Capitol, participants will rally with legislators and University officials and sit in on a House committee meeting. Participants can also meet with their legislators individually.

“We need everyone to work together to make sure our issues are addressed,” said Mike Dean, Legislative Network coordinator. “Especially in light of last year’s $180 million budget cut.”

Dean said Lobby Day’s goal this year is to obtain full funding for the University’s capital bonding request.

In January, Gov. Tim Pawlenty recommended to the Legislature that the University receive $76.6 million of its requested $155.5 million.

MSA’s Legislative Affairs Chairwoman Amanda Hutchings said the committee is working hard to promote Lobby Day.

“Participation is not as big as last year,” Hutchings said. “It’s hard to get excited about bonding.”

GAPSA’s Legislative Liaison Andy Pomroy said GAPSA will work separately from MSA this year to get more graduate and professional students involved.

“We need them to take what they’re feeling, take their experiences and their hardships to the legislators,” Pomroy said. “We need to make sure facilities are kept up.”

Pomroy said graduate and professional student interest in Lobby Day is higher this year than last.

On Monday, Dean said 600 people from the four University campuses were registered to lobby.

The efforts will be better received if more people are involved, said Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, higher education budget division chairwoman.

“All students need to come with a unified message,” Pappas said. “The more we hear, the more we know how important it is.”

Pappas said students need to influence new legislators and tax cutters on lobby day.

Supporter of the “no new taxes” legislation Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said she wants to focus on things she can change immediately.

She said student testimony will not sway her to support additional University funding.

“I’ll listen to anyone who wants to talk to me about (the University’s capital bonding request),” Ortman said. “But we have a committee who is working on this specifically, and I’m not going to make any decisions until I hear what they have to say.”

Dean said he is optimistic about receiving more funding.

Buses will run between the University and the Capitol throughout the day.