ASA team gets lesson in lobbying

PHOENIX - College students from around the state will have a chance to learn the ins and outs of Arizona politics and lobby for higher education at the Capitol as part of a new team put together by the Arizona Students' Association.

Anyone who is interested and has time to attend training classes can join the Legislative Action Team, made up of at least 200 students from the UA, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University.

Members will meet with lawmakers and speak out for higher education at committee hearings during the session, said Tiffany Troidl, ASA government affairs director.

""It's important for legislators to see the people who are affected by the issues.""
- Tiffany Troidl,
ASA government affairs director

""It's important for legislators to see the people who are affected by the issues,"" Troidl said. ""And when they go to the Capitol, the students will learn skills they'll be able to use later in their career.""

The benefits of being involved in politics can be twofold, said Devin Mauney, the ASA chairman and an economics major at ASU. Mauney regularly testifies at committee hearings.

Members will provide a link between the government and universities, Mauney said, thus making it easier for legislators to understand the consequences of any proposed action.

""The legislature really has a big impact on higher education in Arizona,"" he said. ""They set broad policy parameters for the university and for university funding.""

Mauney said his communication skills have made it easier to connect to other policymakers, and they have taught him to argue his case diplomatically even if the other person doesn't agree.

""Being involved in politics and talking to the legislators teaches you to rely on yourself and to be courageous,"" said Mauney, who will spend the next few months studying abroad in Sǜo Paolo, Brazil.

Hank Kenski, a UA communication professor and regional director for Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said it is helpful for students to get out of the campus setting and prove their skills in the real world.

""Lobbying is a sanctum of the First Amendment,"" he said. ""Quite often, classes are structured in a way that students don't really have a chance to develop their verbal skills.""

It can be challenging to pick the most important issues from an abundance of information, and to stand the ground against other people who have different opinions, Kenski said.

""You might have to rebut, you might have to counter-argue and you might have to address the questions that are raised,"" he said. ""All of that is really important.""

ASA officials want to recruit at least 200 students by the end of next session in spring 2008, Troidl said.

But during the off-session in the fall, students who already have signed up will work with legislators on drafting bills and learning how to tell their story in front of committee members.

Students who know only little about the state government will learn the structure of the Legislature and get to know about higher education issues, Troidl said.

ASA has offered students insight into government affairs with annual lobby days for several years, and the legislative team is an effort to formalize and intensify the training, Troidl said.

It will represent a stronger voice at the Legislature and offer students deeper insight into politics in Arizona, she said.

For more information on the Legislative Action Team, contact Troidl at 623-3633-980 or ttroidl@azstudents.org.


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