Lobbying the State

Students, faculty and alumni gathered at the 20th annual Florida A&M University Day at the Capitol Thursday to show support and lobby for FAMU budget requests for the 2006-2007 legislative session.

The Florida Senate and the House of Representatives welcomed FAMU faculty, alumni and staff, as well as the Brain Bowl participants and the royal court in the Senate and House chambers.

“The lobbying efforts from FAMU Day were exciting, especially for the student leaders to be here, it lets the legislators know that the students really care about government and what happens around them and understand how the university is funded,” said Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee.

Student and alumni presence serves to stimulate the legislation so when issues that affect the university are discussed members will remember the efforts of the FAMU community, Lawson explained. Many of the legislators have university alumni in their district throughout the state.

“When they see us, they see votes,” said Carolyn Frazier, president of the alumni chapter in Daytona.

Interim President Castell V. Bryant was at the Board of Governors meeting a Florida State University and was unable to attend the event.

“It is always an exciting event for our university. Not only does it provide an opportunity to showcase our many successful students and programs, it also allows us to illustrate the rich history of Florida A&M,” Bryant said. “It is our hope that our legislators will use the information learned today to make sound decisions to continue their support of our financial needs.”

Throughout the day, alumni met individually with legislators to lobby for the university’s budget.

Major points in the budget discussed by Jackye Maxey, the university’s director of governmental relations, are; funds for the rising costs of utilities, academic enhancement, re-establishing the law school and funds for the Nursing, Education and Engineering programs.

“We are lobbying the legislature for support of FAMU’s legislative priorities,” said Maxey.

Student Government Association President Ramon Alexander and other student representatives spoke to the House Appropriations committee Wednesday and to the Senate Appropriations committee Thursday in reference to need based aid and providing access to higher education.

Over 80 percent of students at FAMU are on financial aid.

“We are going to lobby all 40 senators to continue to support educational causes but more importantly need based aid,” said Secretary of Student Lobbying Amanda Wilkerson, a 24-year-old political science major from Kissimmee.

The university’s Board of Trustees created a budget, which then went to the Board of Governors before reaching the Legislature.

During spring session, the Legislature approves the budget for the state of Florida but the funds for need-based aid come from the Department of Education’s budget.

Need based aid is not part of the university’s legislative budget request but students are still showing support for the governor’s request for $35.8 million increase in need based aid.

“We are interacting with legislators to push our agenda which we feel is a statewide agenda because if FAMU prospers then the state of Florida prospers,” said Alexander, 21, a political science student from Tallahassee.

Alexander also said that the legislature seemed receptive to the university’s requests in a recent legislative session discussion.

“It will be in the next couple of weeks during the appropriations process when negotiations take place before a decision is made,” Lawson said.

Contact Nicole Bardo-Colon at famuannews@hotmail.com