Feb 282008

As efforts to defray higher education costs surface at the capitol, Fort Collins legislators are encouraging commentary and questions from citizens, specifically students and faculty.

Tomorrow, students and faculty will have an opportunity to attend a town hall meeting on campus from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., to meet with Fort Collins’ representatives John Kefalas and Randy Fischer, and senator Bob Bacon, to discuss their proposals and concerns about state legislation. The meeting will take place at Room 113 of the Warner College of Natural Resources building.

The discussion will be open-formatted to anything from education and the economy to the environment and healthcare, but Kefalas and Fischer said they believe higher education will undoubtedly be a high priority topic.

The two hope students will attend the meeting to give their input on current bills and suggest future legislation they would like to see changed and addressed.

“We wanted to have it at CSU this month in an effort to engage more student participation,” Fischer said. “We have been working with (Associated Students of Colorado State University) on a number of issues and would like to have dialogue on some issues specific to students.”

One prominent student issue is Bill 73, the Textbook Affordability Act. The bill has already passed through the Senate, and Thursday, March 6, the bill will face the House Education Committee. If the bill passes in the House without an amendment, it will then be passed to Governor Ritter who will either approve or deny the bill before the end of the session in May. If signed, the bill would take effect in August but wouldn’t have impact until 2009, Kefalas said.

“If students want to tell us what they think about (the bill), this would be good timing and I can offer some suggestions,” Kefalas said.

Kefalas said he suggests concerned students to write letters or provide testimony to the House Education Committee when the committee meets Thursday.

Kefalas supports the textbook bill and will carry it to the House on Thursday to try and get it passed.

The textbook bill derived from the initiative of students across the state, including from students in CSU’s very own student government, ASCSU.

Kefalas said this bill perfectly exemplifies the role students’ opinions can have in impacting legislation and having their ideas represented, and he would like to hear more thoughts from students on Saturday.

“I hope we get hundreds of students there to ask tough questions about higher education and jobs and all the things I believe to be important to students,” Kefalas said. “This is the essence of our democracy, when more people participate and make things better.”

Kefalas said most of the bills they will introduce and discuss are already in the system but said if students give input on the specific bills, he will take ideas expressed during the meeting into perspective when he goes to vote for current bills.

“If the input is specific to legislation we are currently dealing with, I will use it as an informed decision about how to vote,” Kefalas said.

Kefalas said they have modified the meeting in a way so there is less talk from representatives and more input from students, faculty and community members.

“We made sure everyone can get their questions and comments in,” he said.

Katie Gleeson, ASCSU President, said she believes students’ opinions will be heard.

“All of our Fort Collins representatives are student advocates,” Gleeson said. “Our legislators will listen when students speak.”

Senior Reporter Kaeli West can be reached at news@collegian.com

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