ASUW Lobby DayThe Office of Government Relations at the Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW) recently organized a lobby day in Olympia. We interviewed two leaders from the OGR to find our more about the event. Please tell us your name(s) and current position in student government. If you’re willing, please also tell us anything else that you think is relevant about who you are: your year, major, past student government experience, etc. Lucas Barash-David: I’m the Director of the Office of Government Relations. I’m a senior majoring in Honors English and Political Science. Kanokbhorn (KK) Saha: I’m the Legislative Programming Coordinator for OGR. I’m a junior studying Political Science and Economics. This is my first year as an employee in student government but during my sophomore year, I’ve held numerous volunteer positions. What is the ASUW OGR? What do you do? What are your current priorities? ASUW OGR is the legislative advocacy branch of the Associated Students at the University of Washington. We represent over 40,000 students at all levels of government including Federal, State, and Municipal. We have a pretty diverse set of issues that we tackle but we always work on increasing state funding to the UW! How did you get involved in OGR? (Lucas) I did a bunch of work with a previous Director and he recommended I apply for Assistant Director last year. (KK) Last year, I was the legislative session intern for OGR. Throughout this year I’ve been helping out with lobbying efforts such as going down to Olympia and testifying on bills and meeting with legislators. At the end of the last school year I applied for this job. Please describe OGR’s lobby day. What were you lobbying on? What were your goals for the day and did you meet them? Students met with legislators and staff down in Olympia. We covered all 49 districts. Students were lobbying on policies that aim to increase access to and affordability of higher education and increase the visibility of students’ voices on higher ed issues. The goals for the day were for students to focus on three main ideas: access (all students should have the opportunity to a higher education), affordable (high tuition makes pursuing higher education more difficult for students and forces many students to take out large amounts of loans), and allocate (consistent and stable funding is necessary to ensure that higher education is both accessible and affordable). Students lobbied on bills such as HB 1043 (to ban differential tuition), HB 2429 (to implement an income-based loan repayment program), and HB 2720 (to implement a pay-it-forward pilot program). We also thanked Senators for their support in passing the REAL Hope Act and eliminating the one-year waiting period for in-state tuition for veterans. For other student governments that might want to plan similar events, please describe the process of setting up the lobby day. First and foremost, we had to set up meetings with all 147 legislators from 49 districts. Then came a very detailed list of things to do. Some of those included: reserving the Legislative Building steps for our rally, reserving a room for a legislator forum at the end of the day, inviting legislators to speak at the rally, and most importantly, finding food and transportation. In addition to the logistics that needed to be done down in Olympia, there were also a lot of things to do on campus. Those included: making posters and flyers for advertising, signing up applicants, and passing a Student Senate Resolution excusing students from class for the day in order to attend the event. What were the biggest challenges? Biggest surprises? Lessons learned? The biggest challenge was making sure that we provided students with sufficient information to understand what they were lobbying on. The biggest surprise was the large number of students who wanted to take the initiative and continue to be involved in lobbying efforts after attending this lobby day. The one lesson learned is to provide more detailed information about each bill that we are lobbying on. Now that the lobby day is over, what are the next steps in the campaign? OGR collaborates with the other parts of the ASUW to ensure students are represented on campus. One thing we are working on is a forum for students with high level administrators. Lucas will also continue to live in Olympia and advocate for students. On campus, we will continue to bring students down to Olympia to talk to legislators on current bills. What advice would you give to student leaders at other schools who want to establish a legislative advocacy project? I think a good way to start would be to talk to the Administration’s government affairs office to find out what significant issues face the university. I would also contact the other campuses in the state and find out if they are working on any legislative issues.