Office of Governmental Relations

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The Office of Government Relationslobbies full time in Olympia during the legislative session, Winter Quarter and some of Spring Quarter during the long session. This office coordinates voting registration efforts, promotes voter education, and plans the annual lobby day in Olympia. Although our primary focus is on the State Legislature and State Agencies, we also advocate on relevant public policy issues to the U.S. Congress and to various county and city governments.

History

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 even suggested a 25 percent raise during the 1993 legislative session. 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.

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.
1993 Agenda
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. 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. 1997 agenda Issues such as local control of tuition by regents were opposed by the WSL and ASUW lobbyists. Students and lawmakers also expressed their desire to get a more permanent policy on setting tuition, due to the fact that there was no set tuition policy for Washington state institutions. Not much as changed! Increased aid for undergraduate education was placed on high priority. The state's need grant was underfunded despite increases made in the last biennium. Lobbyists tried another push to get a voting student member on the UW Board of Regents or at other universities. In 1998, this was finally approved.

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