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UISG prepares to lobby at 2012 legislative session

BY KRISTEN EAST | NOVEMBER 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa students must build relationships with elected officials when lobbying for funds.

That's one message UI student leaders and state legislators are attempting to convey as the 2012 legislative session nears.

UI Student Government officials held a lobbying-training session for executives and senators during a general Senate meeting Tuesday night as a way to better prepare themselves for Regents Day in March and the 2012 legislative session. The event included local officials and legislators.

"We are very appreciative that [Iowa legislators] are able to volunteer their time tonight to make us more effective advocates for the university," said UISG President Elliot Higgins said. "It's a very valuable opportunity that the other institutions may not have."

UISG and Hawkeye Caucus, another student organization, have made lobbying a priority in recent years because of declining state appropriations and rising tuition.

This year, the state Board of Regents will increase tuition by 3.75 percent for in-state undergraduate students and 4.75 percent for out-of-state students. In the 2011-12 school year, those increases were 5 and 6 percent.

Sens. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, and Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, and Reps. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, and Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, attended the training session to participate in small-group sessions.

The sessions were led by UISG Governmental Relations Committee liaison Katherine Valde and committee co-heads Sens. Michael Dickinson and Caroline Dvorsky.

Higgins said the UI's focus when lobbying is, and always has been, state appropriations.

"By maintaining a stable level of state appropriations, it ensures that universities can keep tuition down, and that is the most pressing issue that students face here," he said.

Regents Day isn't the only lobbying opportunity for student leaders.

Higgins said UISG has also been working closely with Executive Council on Graduate and Professional Students and student leaders from the other regent universities to create a town-hall proposal.

"The goal is to conduct six town-hall meetings across the state that highlight the three regent universities," he said. "These town-halls will highlight specific things that the universities contribute to their communities."

The town-hall proposal is still in its preliminary stages, but Higgins said one idea that has been tossed around is a town-hall meeting dealing specifically with the aftermath of the 2008 flood.

Higgins said all UISG members, as well as any UI students who are interested, are invited to attend lobbying sessions.

At this session, Bolkcom told UISG members lobbying is all about creating relationships.

"Relationships are all about how we make every decision in our life," he said. "We take advice from people we know and trust and have relationships with."

Mascher said in addition to having a relationship with local legislators, it's important to have a connection to Iowa.

"The people who were born here have a connection to Iowa," she said. "You know why you live here and why your parents chose to be here. You have the personal stories that will make the difference."


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