A visit from ASUI Lobbyist Nate Fisher at last week”s senate meeting gave members in attendance an idea of just how successful ASUI has been in the Idaho State Legislature this legislative session.
Fisher said one of these accomplishments included the push for a 3 percent increase in employee compensation for university employees. He said this was a priority going into this legislative session and is something the university should be proud of.
Higher education funding is now only seven years behind, Fisher said, with the state now restored to 2009 levels. He said this has provided an increase in scholarship funding at UI.
However, the main focus of Fisher”s discussion with senate was the success of medical amnesty, otherwise known as House Bill 521.
“However, it does have a three-year sunset clause attached to it, which was a concession we had to make with some of the senators who were concerned about the policy being abused and spiking drinking rates,” Fisher said. “So we need to make a conservative effort to track those statistics and make sure there aren”t issues with the policy and in three years time we will have to opportunity to review that and hopefully eliminate the sunset clause which will effectively keep the policy on the books.”
ASUI Sen. Tanner Beymer voiced some concern about this, since it is uncertain what ASUI will look like in three years time.
“I would hate for those who are sitting in our seat three years from now to not have a good understanding of the conversation that pursued three years prior when it comes back up in the legislature,” Beymer said. “I think this is a policy we have seen in several states that is a great policy to have and declines in drinking rates while calls to 911 are increased.”
Fisher said he has already begun working with ASUI president-elect Austin Karstetter to ensure future ASUI members will be on the same track.
Though there is still work to be done, Beymer said the work Fisher has done for ASUI in the state legislature is “fantastic.”
“I”ve been around politics in this state for a very long time, but it really is unheard of for lobbyists who have been doing this for a significant amount of time to pass a bill like medical amnesty through the legislature on its first year of introduction,” Beymer said. “Not only did Nate accomplish this, but he accomplished this on his own first year lobbying in the legislature. I”d say that”s not a bad track record going forward.”
Besides medical amnesty, Fisher said UI was able to secure funding for a computer science and cyber security program at the Coeur d”Alene campus. While he said this wasn”t a priority of his, he said computer science and cyber security is a big industry and is proud UI has advanced in that direction.
One thing Fisher said he would have liked to see accomplished this legislative session was a tuition lock program. Fisher said he thought it was unfortunate the legislature did not take steps toward this initiative but has hope it will be brought up again in the future.
Fisher said ASUI reached many of its goals this legislative session, such as the push for medical amnesty, and he is looking forward to another year of lobbying for UI.
“I know a lot of senators were involved with legislative ambassadors, wrote letters to legislators and it”s amazing to see what a group of students can do when we really set our minds to do it,” Fisher said. “I think that”s incredible.”
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