The student government’s Legislative Affairs committee prides itself on having “the power to make a difference” on student issues by lobbying state officials, but as the legislative session comes to a close, members have little to show for their efforts.
Over the course of the session, the Associated Students of Madison committee heavily advocated for two bills on behalf of University of Wisconsin students, both of which have been stuck in committee after receiving public hearings, Legislative Affairs Chair Morgan Rae said.
The bills pushed by the committee included the student regent campaign, which would have given students the ability to choose the student regents instead of having them appointed by the governor, and a responsible action bill, which aimed to exempt students drinking underage from citations if they sought emergency medical attention for another underage individual, Rae said.
Last year the committee saw several successes, including playing a role in pushing for the system-wide two-year tuition freeze, ASM spokesperson, Grace Bolt said.
“We definitely had some very solid wins last session. We got a tuition freeze and we had a lot of stuff go through with the state budget, and we got different bills written and introduced,” Bolt said. “Last year we saw more movement in the Capitol, whereas this year we’re focusing more on where we want to go next.”
Bolt said the previous year only seemed more successful because the state Legislature was focusing on the state budget. Since the state budget had to pass, the legislature was forced to make progress more quickly than during a normal session, she said.
Bolt said that the biennial legislative budget process is very different from the normal legislative process and that in non-budget years, like this one, there are different roadblocks legislators can put up to delay and postpone legislation that the committee supports.
“It’s easy to perceive that the committee had a lot more success last year, and that’s because the state budget has to go through,” she said. “There are a lot of different roadblocks that legislators can put up against students.”
Bolt said the overall shift in the political dynamic at the Capitol has given the committee a chance to reevaluate its goals as they move forward. She said she was proud of what the committee is accomplishing this year “behind the scenes.”
One of the main issues the committee saw this year was poor timing of bills, Rae said.
“We’ve been getting bills at the end of session,” Rae said. “We’re hoping to start the process earlier next session and meet with individual members of the committee prior to, or after, the hearing. I’m really optimistic about the next session.”
In an attempt to expand the committee’s influence in the next session, members have spent extra time this year focusing on areas where progress can be made, she added.
Bolt said drafting bills and working in the Legislature is slow moving by nature, so the committee is laying a foundation for future campaigns.
“This year we’re focusing more on what the next steps are in Legislative Affairs and determining what issues we want to push next,” she said. “We can’t just sit there working on two or three bills that we have in the Legislature for the next X amount of years. We need to keep brainstorming ideas and keep working on what is important to campus.”
This article has been updated for accuracy and clarification.