MSA plans legislative agenda for 2013

The agenda could become official after next week's full Senate session.

The Missouri Students Association Senate is considering a new piece of legislation designed to set a legislative platform for the 2013 school year.

The legislation was tabled at the last full Senate meeting, but will be under consideration at the upcoming full Senate meeting on Wednesday.

The legislation, if passed, will ensure more transparency and direction in the Legislative Advocacy Officer position.

Current LAO Steven Dickherber created the position earlier this year. The LAO acts as a liaison between students and both city and state governments, according to a previous Maneater article.

The legislation would help to lay the foundation for the newly created position and set a roadmap for the future, MSA Director of Communications Zach Toombs said. He said there has not been much time to establish a precedent for the position.

Dickherber said the legislation will make the transition from one LAO to the next smoother.

“We don’t want there to be a giant gap where we have to reinvent the wheel every single semester,” Dickherber said. “You don’t want somebody coming in and having to learn what the issues are and then build a platform and then get it through Senate because by then you’re already through February or March. The session is halfway over and you haven’t done anything except learn what’s going on.”

The newly appointed LAO for 2013 will be Samantha Green. Dickherber said she is supportive of this legislation.

"I don’t think there’s a chance of (the legislation) not passing," Dickherber said. "I don’t think there will be a fight about it at all, especially with the new LAO coming in after me. I know that I have spoken with Sam and I’ll be sitting down with her in the next week and she’s supportive of this."

Although he originally expressed concern at the last full Senate, Senate Operations Committee Chairman Ben Bolin said the legislation would hold the next LAO to a high standard, which he said is commendable.

At the last full Senate, Bolin said this legislation would limit the creativity and freedom of the new LAO. He said the legislation is not binding for the LAO, so he no longer believes the LAO will be hindered.

“Now, we want to make sure the student body is behind these things before the LAO goes ahead and makes those movements in pushing these efforts further, pushing for more student funding, pushing for cleaner streets in Columbia, pushing for a better Columbia, a better state and a better Missouri school system,” Bolin said. “So, that’s something that this piece of legislation is advocating for.”

Beyond these legislative goals, Dickherber said it is an important part of the LAO’s job to be a voice for students at Columbia City Council meetings.

“There will always be either the LAO or a representative on the LAO’s team at City Council meetings to see what is going on,” Dickherber said. “City Council members, for the most part, do an excellent job. They represent the city very well, but our goal is that they remember that students are their constituents as well. We are a huge economic factor within the city and we should be treated as constituents, not as a problem.”

Dickherber addressed concerns that the legislation he drafted is his agenda. He said the curators discussed from their legislative advisers what they supported. Then, the UM System Government Relations Department created a platform. Next, the MU Advocacy Director Dianne Drainer made a platform. Finally, MSA, ASUM and other student government organizations created their platforms.

“I’m not trying to force anybody to do my goals or anything,” Dickherber said. “This comes down in a top-down way. The platform builds itself.”

Dickherber said this coordinated effort makes it so every involved organization is under the same umbrella and says the same things when communicating with officials in Jefferson City.

“Our goal is to work with the governing bodies like MU Advocacy, (MU) Government Relations and ASUM, get on the same page, build a platform at the end of every year and then transition smoothly so the next person coming in can be as effective as possible,” Dickherber said.

MSA President-elect Nick Droege said he is in full support of the legislation that has been put together.

“There’s a reason (Dickherber, Toombs, Green and Academic Affairs Chairman Ben Levin) were all chosen and there’s a reason they are all experts in those fields,” Droege said. “I think what they decide and what they feel is best with the administrators, staff and other students that they work with that are knowledgeable and work with the whole legislative process in Jeff City (will do a good job). I’m going to respect what they have to say and the opinions they bring to the table. As far as this (legislation), I’m in full support of what they have to say.”

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