Four U groups to spearhead student lobbying

This year, GAPSA’s Public Affairs Committee will lobby separately from MSA.

Molly Moker

tudents who want to share their opinions with legislators will have several options when the session begins this spring. The Minnesota Student Association and Graduate and Professional Student Assembly will have lobbying groups to coordinate student efforts at the Capitol. MSA’s Legislative Affairs Committee is open to all University students. The committee receives $300 in Student Services Fees through MSA and is responsible for coordinating communication among undergraduate students and local, state and national lawmakers. Senior Amanda Hutchings is the committee chairwoman and said members are currently working on Lobby Day, the committee’s largest event. Lobby Day will be held Feb. 18 for all four University campuses and is tentatively scheduled again in April for Twin Cities students exclusively “It’s a good opportunity for students to meet their legislators,” Hutchings said. “It’s a chance for the student voice to be heard at the highest place possible.” Hutchings said the event is always a success; more than 500 people participated last year. Until this year, GAPSA and MSA lobbied together, but on Tuesday, GAPSA formed its own Public Affairs Committee. Todd Reubold, the committee’s vice president, said he started the group to find more diverse opinions on what concerns graduate students. “I’m just one graduate student,” Reubold said. “The concerns I have may be different than the concerns of other graduate students.” Reubold said he thinks tuition, graduate student financial aid, health care and housing will be popular issues with the group this year. Reubold said his goal for the committee is to continue lobbying for the entire semester. GAPSA also hired last year’s MSA Legislative Affairs Committee chairman, Andy Pomroy, to serve as legislative liaison for the group. He will research bills, attend legislative sessions and work with Reubold to decide who will be in charge of which lobbying efforts. “It’s very well received,” Hutchings said. “Legislators really appreciate it because they don’t know how we feel unless we tell them.” She said although Lobby Day is the only Capitol visit they have planned, she hopes the day will encourage students to lobby legislators themselves. Hutchings’ committee will also hold student forums throughout the year to encourage students to vote and take an active role in government. She said the big issues for undergraduates this year will be safe, affordable housing and rising tuition – common concerns from past years. “There needs to be a huge change in the current system of housing on and off campus,” she said.