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HB 2169 to advance to Senate, may affect student fee distribution

A state bill that would prevent Arizona universities from collecting student fees for groups not recognized as a university student organization will advance Tuesday to the Senate.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will weigh House Bill 2169 this week, after it passed 35-24 in the state House. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), said his proposal was prompted by a statewide student lobbying organization’s controversial use of student fee money to contribute to the Vote Yes on Prop. 204 campaign.

HB 2169 would bring money that is mandatorily collected from students under the protection of state law, and “prevent people like this student group from abusing” it, Kavanagh said in an earlier interview.

Last fall, the Arizona Students’ Association donated more than $100,000 to the campaign using funding raised through a $2-per-student, per-semester fee collected on behalf of the organization by the universities.

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Proposition 204, which failed in November 2012, would have extended a statewide one-cent sales tax increase to fund education. ASA “works to make sure that higher education in Arizona is affordable and accessible,” according to its website.

HB 2169 is one in a series of obstacles ASA is facing as a result of the increased scrutiny created by the controversy. Last month, the Arizona Board of Regents voted to make the $2 collected from every Arizona student for ASA an opt-in fee. Students will now have to explicitly consent to the fee prior to payment.

Some ASA members said the bill’s passage would hinder student voices heard by the Legislature.

“I think by taking away that opportunity [to lobby], it hurts the capabilities of students across the state to speak out for themselves and actually have control about what happens to them,” said Jordan King, ASA vice chairman of the board of directors and chairman of the internal affairs committee. “The way I always look at it is that if universities can have lobbyists lobbying on behalf of the university, why can’t students lobby for themselves?”

Students will testify to the Senate about why the bill should not pass and ASA members will go through testimony from previous committee meetings to address any inaccuracies or concerns, according to King. ASA members will also explain the danger of the bill passing and how it will “negatively affect 140,000 students across the state.”

Some student leaders have also expressed fear that the bill could impact club funding for more than just ASA.

Earlier this month, Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Katy Murray met with the faculty senate and said the bill would “be harmful” to certain unrecognized organizations on campus that receive student funding.

“I think it would have a potentially chilling impact on all student groups who have anything to say about anything,” said Zachary Brooks, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council and an ASA director. “It’s obviously aimed at ASA, the big statewide group, but I think that it’s really chilling at that level if it goes through.”

Kavanagh said ASA is the only organization that will suffer if the bill were to pass. ASA is the only non-university statewide organization receiving student fee money.

The UA State Relations liaison and other administrators are working actively on ways to support students, said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. She also said she doesn’t expect the bill to impact student club funding.

“I think we’ll be able to make sure that it doesn’t negatively affect students’ clubs,” Hart said.


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Updated December 8, 2021