Two versions of a bill to establish a student vote on the UNC-system Board of Governors have sat motionless in their respective chambers of the state legislature for three weeks.
The UNC Association of Student Governments and its legislative allies have tried since 1997 — unsuccessfully — to get its president a vote on the board.
The association’s leaders have put forth a more concerted effort this year, and ASG President Atul Bhula said the bill has a better chance of passing than previous years.
Bhula, who leads an organization each UNC student pays $1 a year for, is an ex-officio, non-voting member of the Board of Governors. He said a vote would lend more authority when he speaks on behalf of the students it represents.
“I don’t have a tangible vote to say that I’m against tuition increases,” he said. “I’m kind of optimistic on it actually being voted on.”
But the Senate version of the bill was referred to the committee on rules and operations on Feb. 21.
In the past, the rules committee was where bills were sent to die, said Sam Watts, public policy analyst at the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.
Bills must be voted on at the end of the House session, but they can remain stuck in Senate committees without a vote.
“If the leadership of the chamber isn’t behind something, it can leave it in rules,” he said.
Rand resigned in December 2009, and Bhula said he hopes Rand’s departure will open a path for the student vote bill.
“The timing is perfect,” he said.
The bill is less a partisan issue than an individual policy decision, Watts said. But it still must have bipartisan support, he said.
“It’s important to have supporters on both sides of the aisle in any session,” he said.
The Senate version of the bill has eight Democrat and two Republican sponsors. The House version has 26 Democrat sponsors and no Republican backers.
Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, former member of the Board of Governors, is the primary sponsor of the Senate bill. She said the student member should have a vote because the board’s decisions directly affect students.
“(Students) are paying the costs, and their representative ought to have a vote,” she said.
Robinson said the bill has more bipartisan support than previous years, and she said it could pass.
“If it doesn’t, I will certainly sponsor it again,” she said.
The House bill was relegated to the education committee Feb. 23.
Committee Chairman Rep. James Langdon, Jr., R-Johnston, said he hasn’t thought much about it because the committee is focusing on other bills.
In past sessions, three weeks was a normal amount of time for bills to sit untouched, but in this session, legislators in the education committee have been moving bills through more quickly, he said.
The bill must pass either the House or the Senate by May 12 or else legislators will not be able to introduce it until 2013, Watts said.
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