Mar 052007
 
Authors: Jenna Lynn Ellis

Four Larimer County legislators held a bipartisan town meeting Saturday on campus to hear from students and faculty regarding issues of higher education.

Sens. Steve Johnson and Bob Bacon and Reps. John Kefalas and Randy Fischer joined nearly 100 people, including students and faculty of CSU, during Saturday’s meeting. Kefalas specifically requested student input and said the legislators were on campus to listen to students’ opinions, concerns and questions.

Several main topics brought before the legislators included sustainable funding for higher education and K-12, implications of the graduate student health bill – House Bill 1026 – access to financial aid and other K-12 related issues.

CSU juniors Kevan Pimentel and Craig Ellis were among the participants in Saturday’s meeting. Ellis said the meeting was very informative and helpful on issues relevant to CSU.

On the question of sustainable funding, the legislators agreed there isn’t a “magical solution,” but the issue must be addressed and is being carefully considered at the Denver Capitol.

Johnson said, “We get pressured from our citizens saying we give more money to education but schools are no better. . Voters say they want less taxes, so they pass TABOR, but then say they want more education, so pass Amendment 23. We (the legislature) have to somehow make that balance.”

He said Colorado is the least-taxed state in the nation and balancing TABOR and Amendment 23 is almost impossible. “We need a constitutional convention to get out of this mess we’re in,” Johnson said.

The panel of legislators also heard from CSU graduate student Amanda Broz, who said the current FAFSA form requires students to respond to questions of state or federal drug convictions, but does not require responses for other types of crimes. Broz asked what could be done to change the FAFSA form.

Kefalas and Bacon said the Associated Students of CSU should get involved if they want to help sponsor legislative action. Johnson said that he would listen to students if they got involved in that or any other issue.

The panel of legislators encouraged ongoing student participation in all legislative action.

“It’s important to understand that committee meetings are open and available for you to come to and you can testify in support or opposition of a bill. This is democracy in action,” Johnson said.

He said the legislators all have Web sites available through the Colorado Legislative homepage and each legislator personally reads e-mails sent.

Bacon said to write “From Fort Collins” or another identifying title in the subject line of e-mails to separate a Larimer constituent from other emails sent to legislators. He said this would help legislators identify communication from their constituency and ensure a more immediate response.

“It turns out people do have strong opinions for or against an issue. So it’s hard to discern who to listen to, to make an informed decision,” Kefalas said. “The more people talk to me about an issue, the more I’ll be able to make a better informed decision.”

Staff writer Jenna Lynn Ellis can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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