MSA gives new legislative branch the go-ahead

The Minnesota Student Association approved a coalition that will unite lobbying efforts for all University of Minnesota campuses.
October 18, 2011

After working for more than a year trying to improve legislative relations, the Minnesota Student Association passed a vote Tuesday for the Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition.

The MSLC will cover all five University campuses and the Graduate and Professional Student Association in representing students and their interests at the state Legislature.

“I’m excited, I don’t know how else to put it,” Chris Tastad, chairman of the MSLC said. “There has been so much work put in from so many parties in this process that it’s fantastic to see it come to fruition.”

Last year the MSLC was a concern for various members of MSA. However, the vote for the program passed unanimously during Tuesday’s forum in what speaker of the forum Drew Horwood described as “the shortest forum of the past three years.”

Since the Oct. 4 meeting, Tastad has been working with the coordinate campuses to organize their efforts and create a consensus on how the group is going to work together.

“Longevity is a major concern for me in making sure we’re doing things that are sustainable for many generations of the program,” Tastad said.

Currently, the Rochester and Crookston campuses don’t have established advocacy committees. But, Morris has recently become the first campus to ratify the coalition’s charter. The vote Tuesday put Twin Cities in as the second.

Training is currently underway for the group of advocates that will serve on the Twin Cities Advocacy Corps — the Twin Cities branch of the MSLC.

“The group is in the process of developing an idea of how they’re going to work at the Capitol and how they’re going to reach out to students for legislative issues,” Tastad, who also directs the advocacy corps, said.

Last Thursday, the MSLC gained endorsement from the University’s chief lobbyist Donna Peterson.

In a letter, Peterson, vice president of government relations for the University, wrote “the spirit behind the creation of this group and associated restructuring offers great promise for achieving the objective of strengthening the University of Minnesota for the benefits of students.”

The next big hurdle for the MSLC is putting out a platform that best represents all of the campuses and the needs of students.

General issues that might be taken to the capitol include more student involvement in decision making, tuition and financial support and access to people with disabilities.

For now, there is no specific timeline for the MSLC, but Tastad said he hopes to have it in full force by the end of the semester.

“We can see the finish line and now it’s time to really start the race,” he said. “There is so much momentum and so much development behind this group. I feel like we can really make things happen at the Capitol.”

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