In a presentation to the ASWSU Senate Wednesday night, Director of Legislative Affairs Josh Hart said he wants to change the campus perspective on legislative issues from reactive to proactive.
Hart said he will accomplish this by transforming the annual Coug Day at the Capitol into a more educational experience, as opposed to a lobbying event, as it has been in past years.
Hart is working to accomplish the 2-4-6 goals ASWSU President Riley Myklebust and Vice President Amanda Spalding laid out during their campaign, which include holding two Coug Days at the Capitol, writing 400 letters and placing 600 calls to state legislators.
“The (400 letters and 600 calls) will be challenging, but that’s the way it should be,” Hart said.
However, he said he is unsure how the Coug Days will be organized, or whether ASWSU will hold one or two trips to the capitol. This uncertainty stems partly from legislature passed after Myklebust and Spalding were elected last spring, which gives the WSU Board of Regents the power to set tuition.
Because tuition rates have been the primary reason for traveling to Olympia to lobby legislators in the past and that point is now somewhat moot, Hart said he and his assistant will be placing more emphasis on the Pullman campus.
While past directors of legislative affairs have resided in Olympia for the majority of the school year, Hart will spend this year working in Pullman. He will be aided by his assistant, Tristan Hanon, who was confirmed in his position Wednesday by the Senate.
Hanon will help organize events on campus while Hart works with legislative directors from the branch campuses and travels to Olympia when necessary. The WSU-Vancouver director will spend the year in the state capitol because it is more cost effective, Hart said.
ASWSU broke ties with the Washington Student Association (WSA) last year and is now part of the Cougar Coalition, a lobbying organization made up of the student bodies of WSU-Pullman and the three branch campuses.
Hanon said he wants to focus on expanding ASWSU’s influence.
“I view this kind of as a building year … moving away from the WSA has been difficult, but I think once we work through that, once we really establish and grow the Cougar Coalition, both here in Pullman and with the branch campuses, we’ll be a lot stronger than we were before because we can really focus on just what WSU needs to focus on,” he said.
Hart agreed, and said their main focus will be educating students about bills and getting them to vote, as opposed to pushing an agenda. He is also meeting with legislators now, when they are less busy, to build up a professional relationship to draw on in the spring.
Hart and Hanon are also establishing a committee to help them achieve their goals.
“There’s a ton that we can do with students,” Hanon said. “They’re why we’re here. We need to reach out to them. I think that we really need to influence students to take part. Not necessarily in legislative affairs, but just take part more in the campus; create more buy-in for students into leadership, into what ASWSU does."
Newly confirmed ASWSU officers:
Amanda Hatfield: Director of multicultural affairs
Tristan Hanon: Assistant director of legislative affairs
Changes to ASWSU Bylaws
“With the passage of the Constitutional Amendment last spring (the change in representation from living districts to colleges), it was clear to me that students realized that we need a more streamlined government that can do more good for this school … Over the next few months we will be looking at ways to fundamentally change ASWSU, beginning with the simplification of the bylaws and including the total transformation of the Senate.” – Joey Pacific, ASWSU senator