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Friday, August 14, 2020

AS Board talks student senate, Lobby Day

Illustration by Julia Berkman

By Simon Thomas

The Legislative Affairs Council has begun drafting Western’s newest legislative agenda. Associated Students Vice President for Governmental Affairs Natasha Hessami spoke in-depth about several of the proposed items on the Lobby Day agenda at the AS Board meeting on Nov. 16.

Legislative session begins in Olympia every second Monday of January, and the council is considering items to prioritize lobbying during that time. The council agreed that amount needs to be reduced considerably before the draft is voted upon on Dec. 7.

“The items on our legislative agenda are going to be lobbied on by students during legislative session,” Hessami said. “All of these efforts are going to make Western and colleges around the state a better place so we want to know what students need and what they want so we best represent them in Olympia.”

To best understand what students need and want, the council created a survey where students can vote on which of the agenda items they feel are most necessary. The items listed include housing advocacy, environmental advocacy, advocacy for the rights of undocumented students and expansion of the State Need Grant, which could make school more affordable to those seeking financial aid.

Hessami stressed the importance of reaching out to as many students as possible to make drafting the agenda a more democratic process.

“The group that makes the legislative agenda is the Legislative Affairs Council and that is 15 students,” Hessami said. “They bring great input but unfortunately, 15 students does not represent the entire university.”

AS Vice President of Academic Affairs Levi Eckman reported that submissions for AS Student Senate candidacy have closed, and all colleges received enough candidates.

After approving an amendment to the Election Code Charge and Charter to better clarify roles and expectations to specific senate positions, the board assessed how to best create an online ballot for the senate elections to make voting more accessible.

Of the options discussed, most board members agreed that a system where each voter gets four votes, two for senate positions reserved for their college and two for undeclared students, seems the most viable at this time.

Eckman said it won’t be easy to create a perfect voting system right away, so this year will serve as a trial-and-error experience for future elections.

“I think it will be just fine the first year, and this next year’s senate will work tirelessly to make sure next year we have an even better model,” Eckman said during the meeting.

Student Senate elections begin on Nov. 26.

Eckman also reported to the board that the industrial technology-vehicle design program was voted to be put in moratorium. The departmental vote was held on Nov. 14 and passed 9-3-6, and it will move on the Academic Coordinating Commission for a second vote.

Communication studies major and senior Celia Major was appointed to the Activities Council by the board, which also appointed journalism major and junior Colton Redtfeldt to the Student Publication Council.

The board went into a 23-minute executive session for personnel issues regarding professional standards for board members before adjourning the meeting.

The next AS Board meeting will be Nov. 30 at 4 p.m. in Viking Union 567.

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