UC Davis students concerned about raises in tuition fees have at least one group of people working on their behalf: the ASUCD Lobby Corps.
Lobby Corps is a unit of ASUCD that recruits students to directly lobby university officials and legislators at the state capitol.
“It really is proactive, and it gives a voice to the students who really don’t have one,” said Sarah Caporusso, a communications director for Lobby Corps.
Caporusso is a sophomore public relations and communication double major. This is her second year working for Lobby Corps.
Caporusso said the current issue Lobby Corps is focusing on is the California budget that was proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger on Jan. 10.
According to Schwarzenegger’s Jan. 10 proposal, the budget cuts state funding from many organizations to make up for a $14.5 billion budget deficit. The budget leaves the University of California $109 million less than the budget for the current year, a 3.4 percent decrease. Caporusso’s worry is that the UCs may try to make up the difference through student fee increases.
Caporusso said that student lobbyists are trying to raise awareness among state legislators regarding the budget’s financial impact on students.
“Currently we’re talking a lot about Governor Schwarzenegger’s new budget and how it is going to affect students,” Caporusso said.
Caporusso added that the main challenge facing student lobbyists is to persuade state legislators to see issues from the perspective of students.
“It’s just frustrating to lobby and continue to see fee hikes and more pressure put on students,” Caporusso said.
In January, Lobby Corps awarded state senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) with the Legislator of the Year award for his role in authoring Senate Bill 190 – a bill that requires open session voting on compensation packages for officials on UC and CSU governing boards.
“Lobby Corps has been fantastic in supporting legislation that Senator Yee has supported, specifically Senate Bill 190,” said Adam Keigwin, press secretary for Yee.
Caporusso said the passing of SB 190 showed the impact of Lobby Corps on state legislation.
“There is a positive outcome for all our hard work,” said Caporusso, who became interested in working for the commission because her brother, Michael, was Lobby Corps director from 2005 to 2006.
Members of Lobby Corps research state and university legislation. Student lobbyists then visit legislators’ offices at the capitol in Sacramento or University of California officials.
“It seemed like a really great opportunity to get some firsthand political experience,” said Derick Lennox, external director for Lobby Corps.
Lennox, a junior political science and English major, joined the commission as a first-year student. His work as a student lobbyist meant delivering letters to state senators in Sacramento, meeting with state legislators and doing research on upcoming legislation.
Lennox said that the job has not changed much in the last three years, but the group has grown. Lobby Corps is now run by five student directors and has 15 to 20 student volunteers. The group is made up of students from a variety of majors; some do want political experience, but others hope to learn about communication, he said.
“It’s surprisingly not just political science majors,” Lennox said. “It’s really a very diverse group.”
Lennox said that the student lobbyists are received well at the capitol. He added that senators are often glad to listen to members of Lobby Corps.
“I’ve never really had a bad lobby visit,” Lennox said.
Lennox said that Lobby Corps serves as a way for students to be directly involved in the policies that affect their lives.
“The news constantly reports that the 18- to 24-year-old age group does not care about politics, “Lennox said. “Lobby Corps has taught me that there are students out there, and they really do want to get involved.”
Members of Lobby Corps meet for about one hour every Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Moss Room of the Memorial Union to discuss commission goals.
MADELINE McCURRY SCHMIDT can be reached at email@example.com.