Office of Government Relations

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Office of Government Relations Purpose and Mission Statement

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The Office of Government Relations (OGR) is the lobbying arm of the Associated Students of the University of Washington at the city, county and state level. While we do not have a federal lobbyist, the OGR will communicate with national legislators on relevant policy matters. All lobbying efforts work to promote the ASUW Legislative Agenda.
The Director lobbies full time in Olympia during the legislative session (Winter Quarter and some of Spring Quarter). The State Constitution provides for one 105-day regular session during odd-numbered years and one 60-day regular session during even-numbered years each biennium.
The Office of Government Relations' motto is "Outreach, Activism and Pride!"
For more information please check out the Office of Government Relations Website as it is updated: http://ogr.asuw.org

About OGR

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It was not until 1991 that students lobbied on behalf of their own issues. Tuition increases have always been a concern: Some increases commanded as much as 15 percent. Gov. Booth Gardner once suggested a 25 percent raise during the 1993 legislative session and Gov. Gary Locke once suggested a 29 percent increase. Control of student fees has also been a common issue. In addition, issues over diversity, accommodations for students with disabilities, student regents and financial aid have been on the list since the first student agenda in 1991.
In the 1991 agenda, the looming threat of an economic recession made students worry about a potential tuition hike. In spite of these activities, student lobbyists were able to stay focused on their immediate concerns at the UW. Under Gov. Booth Gardner's plan, students would face an 11.5 percent tuition hike, plus a 5 percent cut in public funding.
A bill designed to attract minority students to state universities and maintain their enrollment until graduation was touted by '91 lobbyists. For graduate minority students, the Minority Graduate Conditional Fellowship would provide funding for minority graduate students to earn their master's degrees on the condition that they remain for two to three more years after graduation and work at a state university or community college.
Student lobbyists proposed to improve facilities and accessibilities for handicapped students. Some previous improvements include prioritized seating in classrooms, improved translators for the hearing impaired and wheelchair-accessible campus trails. Student lobbyists addressed the problem of limited University family housing for graduate students, single parents and faculty.
With a $1.6 billion gulf separating projected state revenues from planned state expenditures, Gov. Gardner planned to raise the necessary funds with his proposal to raise sales tax by 0.5 percent, freeze plans for new or expanded programs approved by previous legislatures, deny all state employees - including UW faculty and staff - their regularly scheduled pay raises, raise state business and occupation tax and raise tuition. However, Gardner avoided making major cuts to existing state programs.
In the 1997 agenda, student lobbyists pushed for a bill that would add one graduate student and one undergraduate students to the UW and WSU board of regents and one student to the boards of trustees of the state's three regional universities. Lobbyists also pushed for a new American Indian culture and language curriculum center at a state college or university. An additional bill to mandate minimum access and equipment standards at public colleges and universities was also considered. A bill was considered that would guarantee that the UW chapters of the Washington Student Lobby and Washington Public Interest Research Group retain access to the UW's phone registration system for voluntary student donations.
Two bills sponsored by UW faculty member Jeanne Kohl aimed at ensuring gender equity in college athletics. One bill would extend state-funded tuition waivers for women athletes, approved for four-year colleges and universities. The second bill would establish a recruitment center for women coaches and athletic administrators.
In the 1999 agenda, OGR pushed for higher faculty salaries, exempting higher education from the Initiative 601 spending cap, legislative tuition-setting authority, equality for domestic partnership, finding new ways to expand diversity, state funding of safe and affordable child care, mandating mastery of the English language for instructors and TAs, a tax exemption for textbooks and opposition to any effort to limit the civil rights of students.
In the 2006 agenda, ASUW received some local media attention [1] for its outspoken support, where previously silent, on the pending gay rights bill that prevented discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That bill went on to pass that same legislative session, by 1 vote in the State Senate. Although not particularly highlighted by the ASUW agenda, members of the Washington Student Lobby devoted significant time to addressing the issue of skyrocketing textbook costs. A bill was passed which limited abilities of bookstores to offer materials "bundled" with add-ons, such as workbooks and electronic media. The bill also directed faculty to consider cost in their textbook choices.
The 2009 Agenda was particularly notable because of its brevity. It was reduced to one page highlighting the most critical overarching issues to UW students. The goal was to encourage legislators to actually read the document and make it more presentable to the public.

OGR Internal Structure

For the Winter Quarter 2006, the Government Relations Task Force (GRTF) considered how to make student lobbying efforts more powerful and more effective. As part of this discussion, the GRTF has considered changes to various aspects of ASUW lobbying efforts including the drafting and approval of the Legislative Agenda, the structure and place of the Legislative Steering Committee (LSC), the structure of the Office of Government Relations (OGR) itself, and the relationship between ASUW and other lobbying organizations such as Affordable Tuition Now and the Washington Student Lobby.

These changes predominantly revolve around the addition of several student employees to the office, and modifications to existing job descriptions. No changes were recommended to the position of OGR Director - this individual should remain the primary coordinator and executor of ASUW lobbying efforts as prescribed by the Legislative Agenda.

The OGR Director was assisted by an OGR Legislative Coordinator. The Legislative Coordinator, in addition to being responsible for event programming on campus, is frequently tapped for research and lobbying assistance. Furthermore, the Legislative Coordinator acts as Chair of the LSC. It was recommended that the Legislative Coordinator's standing job description be altered to limit his or her responsibilities to coordination of lobbying events and other relevant programming. This person should not be politically involved as a lobbyist - rather, this position supports OGR by planning and executing events, programs, and campaigns to promote student awareness and increase student involvement.

Whereas LSC currently assists the OGR Legislative Coordinator in executing programs and events, a new legislative programming committee should be created to assist the Legislative Coordinator. LSC would resume its originally intended role of creating a legislative agenda and acting as a public oversight body for the Office of Government Relations as a whole.

To assist the OGR Director with actual political lobbying, GRTF recommended the creation of a new position of OGR Assistant Director. The Assistant Director is not in full residence in Olympia as the Director is expected to be, but will share responsibilities between Seattle and Olympia.

One of the main objectives of the Assistant Director will be to further the ASUW's relationship with the Washington Student Lobby (WSL). Currently, the Director is the sole ASUW representative in Olympia, occasionally supplemented by the ASUW President. The Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) Vice-President is also in Olympia regularly to help represent UW. Together, the OGR Director and the GPSS VP give UW better representation than most other colleges, but remarks from the current Director and GPSS VP reveal that despite their efforts, it has been difficult to pursue ASUW's Legislative Agenda when so much of the total higher education lobbying efforts depend on the joint cooperation of WSL to be fully represented at the widest-possible array of hearings and meetings. The addition of the Assistant Director would allow for far improved ASUW participation and representation at WSL initiatives, and would increase the ASUW's influence in formulation and execution of WSL lobbying positions.

The Assistant Director should also help increase ASUW's lobbying efforts locally in Seattle and King County - this duty is currently neglected because of the large strains of effect representation in Olympia.

We also recommend the creation of a permanent OGR Research Assistant. Currently, OGR Research Assistants are provided for only when need is demonstrated - for instance, in legislative budget years. We recommend that a student research assistant position be created that could be permanently devoted to producing information for ASUW lobbying efforts. Furthermore, we recommend that this position be funded together by ASUW and GPSS because the position would inevitably result in findings that would benefit joint lobbying efforts. The Research Assistant should be implemented as a member of the Student Policy Group. Read talk page regarding: Student Policy Group

The OGR Research Assistant position, however, was eliminated by recommendation of the ASUW Personnel Committee in Spring 2007, and defunded by the ASUW Board of Directors shortly thereafter.

Contact Information

OGR Director: Lucas Barash-David

Advisor: Rene Singleton

Office: HUB 131S

Phone: 206.543.1780

E-mail: asuwogra@u.washington.edu

Facebook: ASUW Office of Government Relations

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