Most college students who study state government take only an academic interest in the arcane and sometimes maddening procedures behind how a legislative bill becomes law.
But Chris Gustafson, a junior at Arizona State University, has reason to take it personally when lawmakers convene Jan. 14. He wrote one of the bills that’s expected to be introduced to seek limits on future tuition increases at all three state universities.
The Arizona Capitol Times reported Dec. 7 that Gustafson was a student this fall in an ASU class taught by Rep. David Schapira, D-Tempe. Schapira used his inside access to provide the class with an up-close look at how the Legislature writes and passes laws. Gustafson and his fellow students even spent a day on the floor of the House of Representatives debating and voting on various measures as if they were lawmakers themselves, the Capitol Times reported.
Schapira’s ultimate motivation for his students to perform well was a promise that he would pick one of the mock bills approved by the class to introduce at the actual Legislature. And Schapira selected Gustafson’s proposal to require a two-thirds vote, instead of a simple majority, by the Arizona Board of Regents when it wants to raise tuition rates by more than 5 percent or student fees by more than $200.
Bills are almost never approved in the same form that they are introduced. But Gustafson told the Capitol Times he hopes to at least influence whatever happens next year.
“My end goal for this would be everybody to come together and, instead of having two tuition proposals (from the university presidents and the students), having one proposal everyone can agree with,” he said.
The board of regents votes almost unanimously on budget issues. So Gustafson’s proposal might not be enough to rein in tuition rates that have doubled in the past six years. But legislative approval would be one small sign that state officials have heard the concerns of financially strapped students and their families.