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N.C. Sen. Rand Could Thwart Student BOG Vote

After breezing through the House by an 83-26 vote Monday, a bill that calls for a student vote on the Board of Governors might be bottled up in the Senate Rules Committee.

President of the UNC Association of Student Governments Andrew Payne wanted the bill to move into the Senate Education Committee.

But that window of opportunity might have closed on Tuesday when the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations.

A similar bill, proposed in the Senate by Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, was referred to the Rules Committee on Feb. 20, and has been there ever since.

In 1999, a similar bill died in the Rules Committee.

Chairman of the Rules Committee Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, said he is opposed to allowing a student vote on the Board of Governors and, as of right now, has no plans to put the House bill on the Senate calendar.

"It takes a significant amount of knowledge to serve on the BOG," Rand said. "Students don't have that."

As chairman of the committee, Rand determines when bills are called for discussion on the Senate floor, and he has the power to simply not schedule a bill for discussion. In such a case, a bill could be stuck in a committee indefinitely.

Despite the fact that the House bill was approved overwhelmingly and the Senate version of the bill has 18 co-sponsors, Rand said he feels no pressure in giving the bill a chance to be heard. "I intend to talk to other members and see what their feelings are, but I have not put it on the calendar yet for discussion."

Payne said there might be something more to Rand's staunch opposition to the bill. "Senator Rand fears students might bring a positive influence to the BOG, which obviously he does not want," Payne said. "Also, a student member wouldn't have to answer to the General Assembly. He doesn't want to give that power away."

But pressing on with lobbying for the bill, Payne said their strategy will not be a mass lobbying of all members of the Senate but will target the leaders of the Senate, in particular Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, D-Beaufort.

Kinnaird said that is the correct action to take. But although she has been working on the leadership for months, so far she has not been successful. She said the leadership is the key.

"If they can be persuaded, the bill might be able to move," Kinnaird said.

As pro tem, Basnight appoints chairmen of committees and holds influence over the largely Democratic Senate.

Payne added that this year is different from 1999, when a similar bill was pigeonholed in a Senate committee.

"We've been doing e-mails, phone calls and also petition drives in communities to show that people outside of the university care about the issue as well," he said. "We've honed our argument better to respond to objections raised in the past, and I think Student Day at the Capitol showed legislators how much students care about this issue."

Student Day at the Capitol was an event where dozens of students congregated in front of the General Assembly building on Feb. 20 to lobby for the issues. Both versions of the student vote bill were proposed on that day.

Although Rand has not moved Kinnaird's bill out of the Rules Committee since the event, Kinnaird and Payne plan to press on. Kinnaird said, "We are in the same situation we were in (for 1999), but we'll keep trying."

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