A student-run, statewide lobbying group is asking Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a bill that would completely eliminate the organization’s funding.
The Arizona Senate voted 16-12 on Tuesday to pass House Bill 2169. The bill would ban state universities from collecting fees and transferring money on behalf of non-university recognized organizations such as the Arizona Students’ Association.
“It’s a needed bill based on the reprehensible behavior of the Arizona Students’ Association,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills).
ASA, which lobbies the Legislature on behalf of Arizona students, relies on a $2 per-student, per-semester fee for funding.
Last fall, ASA donated more than $100,000 to the Vote Yes on Proposition 204 campaign using student fee money. The proposition, which failed in November 2012, would have extended a statewide one-cent sales tax increase to fund education.
The donation brought the organization under increased scrutiny from student government leaders at all three universities, the Arizona Board of Regents and legislators like Kavanagh.
“If you’re going to use university resources to collect your monies, then you have to play by university rules, which prohibit the use of government resources for political campaigns,” Kavanagh said. “If the ASA wants to continue to exist and do political contributions, then they should remain independent as they are and request voluntary donations from students.”
Across the state, ASA interns and students are urging Brewer to veto the bill, said Jordan King, vice chairman of the ASA board of directors and chairman of the internal affairs committee.
“At this point the best thing we can do is outreach to the governor’s office and give her a chance to realize that there are hundreds, if not thousands of students, who are vocally against this bill,” King said.
Prior to the bill’s passage, some senators expressed concern over the loss of learning opportunities. Sen. Steve Farley (D-Tucson) pointed out that many legislative interns got their start at ASA.
“That’s an incredibly valuable thing because I think all of us agree that our civics training in our schools nowadays is not nearly where it should be,” Farley said. This has caused a decline in people wanting to get involved in public service and the Legislature, Farley added.
Farley said he fears that without ASA’s lobbying efforts, tuition could rise even more.
“We should not be cutting them off,” he said. “It’s building a civic society. It’s keeping a check on the increasing university costs and making sure that people can afford to go to university in Arizona, which is, after all, what our constitution says we’re supposed to do.”
Kavanagh said he is confident Brewer will sign the bill.
“Based on the favorable treatment it received in the House and the Senate, I doubt she’s going to veto it,” Kavanagh said, “especially since it makes the ASA comply with board of regents policy.”
— Bethany Barnes contributed reporting to this story.