MSA to lobby against voter ID, for bonding bill

The Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition approved its plans for the 2012 legislative session.

Jenna Wilcox

The Minnesota Student Association approved a legislative platform for their student lobbying organization during forum Tuesday.

The Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition covers all five University of Minnesota campuses and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly in an effort to represent student interests at the state Legislature.

Over the past few months, the MSLC worked to select the initiatives they believe to be most important to bring to the Legislature for students.

MSLC director Chris Tastad said out of the five issues on their platform, he believes students will take the most interest in their stance on the voter ID bill.

A proposed constitutional amendment would require all voters to present photo identification to prove they live in Minnesota before voting. But many University tudents donâÄôt carry IDs from Minnesota even though they live in the state.

The proposed requirements could prevent those students from voting, Tastad said.

Currently, the University administration doesnâÄôt have an active stake in the issue. But the MSLC sent a letter to President Eric Kaler on Tuesday to take a stand against the bill.

âÄúWeâÄôve asked [Kaler] to build awareness with students and make sure student voter participation is as high as it can be,âÄù Tastad said.

The MSLC also sat down with state Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, to find out what parts of the amendment are flexible and where students can be taken into consideration. Kiffmeyer introduced the amendment.

The MSLCâÄôs goal is to figure out what provisions might make it easier for students to vote, and if they could use a UCard instead of a state-issued ID.

Other MSLC initiatives include advocating for student governance, a bonding bill to fund projects at the University, administrative accountability and student debt.

Tastad said the bonding bill will be the most important focus from a University perspective, since administrators want it to include funding for the Eddy Hall remodel and restoring Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) funds to be used for repairs and renovations.

 They will also be exploring the possibility of adding a student onto the Board of Regents.

âÄúThatâÄôs basically the top of the food chain at the University,âÄù MSLC representative James McGhee said.

Currently, student government only has representatives to the Regents, but no voting power.

Their movement for more administrative accountability generated the most questions during the forum.

Tastad said the state Legislature believes the University lacks transparency, especially in its finances.

âÄúThis could be detrimental in the way the Legislature supports the students as a result,âÄù he said.

Currently, the MSLC is going through different University departments to identify how they work structurally and eventually, how they are funded.

MSA also elected new at-large representatives after three people quit over winter break for academic reasons and to study abroad.

McGhee, Thomas Trehus and Wes Halseth won the election with 21, 17 and 14 votes, respectively.

Halseth, who is also the grants director, said since his involvement in MSA has increased he hopes  to gain an at-large position.

Trehus, who ran MSAâÄôs lobbying arm last year, and McGhee both have ties to the MSLC.

Trehus said, âÄúI think I can bring some good experience to the table.âÄù