UISG to lobby legislators Thursday


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University of Iowa Student Government officials hope a personal touch will make the difference — they plan to go to Des Moines on Thursday to meet with legislators about potential tuition hikes and cuts to higher education.

“We definitely have the potential to make a difference,” said UISG President John Rigby, who is making his first lobbying trip of the year.

Student representatives discussed plans for the trip at their meeting Tuesday night.

Rigby said UISG members make frequent e-mail and face-to-face contact with state and local legislators about higher-education appropriations. This week, members will ask legislators who are alumni of the state Board of Regents institutions to compare the proposed tuition increase with what they paid for college, Rigby said.

Four UISG members and one non-member are signed up to take the trip — one of several lobbying trips each year, said Lee Henely, the UISG government-relations liaison.

Henely said the group plans to lobby to legislators from both houses between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. before they split up for subcommittee meetings.

“We bring a little more personal story to it,” Rigby said.

The group has a fairly constant presence at the Capitol, he said, adding he plans to talk to legislators about ensuring funding for higher education is appropriate.

During Tuesday’s UISGSenate meeting, a seven-senator committee explained the General Education Budget for fiscal 2011 and acknowledged the importance of lobbying to state legislators.

Iowa’s regent universities will receive $75 million less in state appropriations than they previously requested for fiscal 2012 under Gov. Terry Branstad’s proposed budget.

“If your voices aren’t heard, [legislators are] not going to think the [...] cut is that important,” said UISG Senator Nic Pottebaum as he encouraged other senators to make the trip this week. “Every time we go, that number can get smaller.”

The only cost will be transporation to Des Moines, and that will be covered by money set aside for the government-relations committee in the UISG budget, Henely said.

Rigby said the magnitude of the difference to be made will depend on the frequency and level of dialogue between student-government members and state officials.

UISG officials aren’t the only ones with plans to meet with state legislators about potential higher-education cuts. Today, Regent President David Miles and the presidents of the three state universities will meet with the education-appropriations subcommittee to discuss higher-education funding for the coming fiscal year.

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