Group meets with state legislators to discuss its four-plank legislative agenda
UMKC students from the Associated Students of the University of Missouri (ASUM) traveled to Jefferson City last Tuesday to lobby on behalf of their fellow students.
This group included Caleb Michael-Files, Jasmine Heitz, Elizabeth Brown, Amanda Morris and ASUM photojournalist Manon Ibrahim. Assistant Dean of Students Eric Grospitch accompanied the group.
There were four issues on the table the students were lobbying: S.T.E.M. initiatives, voting rights for the University of Missouri system student curator, budget cuts to higher education and tenant and landlord issues.
The Lobby Day’s focus, however, was a proposed bill that would give the student curator voting rights on the Board of Curators with issues pertaining to students.
The Board of Curators’ composition is based on the number of U.S. Congressional districts in Missouri. Previously, there were nine districts. Now, after losing a seat in the House, there are only eight Congressional districts, which results in eight curators plus a student curator, a student voice who, however, has no voting power.
“We feel that since we have Student Curator Amy Johnson at UMKC, it should be the utmost priority,” said Files, executive director of ASUM. “We feel that she does deserve a vote since we are losing a legislative district.”
UMKC’s student lobbyists, along with other ASUM lobbyists from around the UM system, were able to lobby about 70 percent of the state legislators. The students received a mixed reception.
While in agreement with ASUM on other points, Sen. David Pearce from the 31st district in Missouri disagreed with the proposal to give the student curator a vote.
“This is probably the only issue we will disagree on,” Pearce said, “and I feel very strongly about that.”
Others, like Representative Stacey Newman from the 73rd district, quickly expressed their agreement.
“We are on board,” Newman said, “and we have been from the beginning.”
The student curator bill failed to get out of a house committee Tuesday morning.
Judy Morgan, the 39th district Representative from Kansas City and a UMKC graduate, said she was disappointed with the bill’s failure.
“I am sorry it didn’t pass, I just don’t get it,” she said.
Morgan also seemed miffed about the budget cuts and lack of more revenue.
“You can’t keep pitting everybody against each other for the little money that is there,” she said. “We need income from somewhere.”
UMKC student lobbyists stopped by the offices of those who voted in favor of the bill and thanked them personally. They also stopped by Gov. Jay Nixon’s office and handed his staff a packet of 500 petitions that were signed by UMKC students encouraging him to reinstate full funding for higher education.
Recently, Nixon recommended 12.5 percent cuts, or $106 million, to higher education funding in his State of the State address to deal with a projected $500 million budget shortfall. He has since restored $40 million of the cuts.
NOTE: Caleb-Michael Files and Manon Ibrahim are former U-News staff writers.